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Man survives shark attack after other surfers rush to his aid in Northern California

NBC News logo NBC News 10/5/2021 Antonio Planas
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A surfer is “fortunate” to have survived a shark bite over the weekend about 70 miles north of San Francisco, an emergency responder said Monday.

The surfer, who has not been publicly identified other than that he is in his 30s, was bitten in the thigh about 9 a.m. Sunday near the Sonoma Coast north of Bodega Bay, said Bodega Bay Fire Protection Division Capt. David Bynum.

The surfer's condition was unknown Monday. He was conscious when he was airlifted and is expected to survive, Bynum said.

The man was first helped to shore by surfers who applied a tourniquet to his thigh with surfboard leashes, which another bystander later replaced with a manufactured tourniquet, Bynum said. First responders arrived within minutes and continued to treat the surfer, who was airlifted to a hospital by the California Highway Patrol, Bynum said.

“The tourniquet was crucial. That’s what made the difference between a life-threatening injury and a stable patient,” he said. “He’s fortunate. He had a lot of help right from the start.”

NBC Bay Area spoke to Jared Davis, a surfer who saw the shark bite the man and helped him immediately after.

“I saw the dorsal fin of the shark. And then I saw the tail fin of the shark,” Davis said. “It definitely wasn’t ... like a quick attack. It was nice and slow.”

Davis also told the station that surfers applied a tourniquet to the wound.

“We did that with two separate surf leashes. Tied them as tight as we could,” he said.

Bynum said that beaches near the site were open Monday but that the ocean remained off-limits until Tuesday.

A great white shark is believed to be the culprit, but that was not confirmed Monday, Bynum said. The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife will try to collect and analyze DNA from the surfer’s wetsuit and surfboard to identify the species, he said.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Department, there have been 198 incidents of contact between sharks and people from the 1950s to August. Fourteen were fatal and 106 were classified as nonfatal, and there were no injuries in 78 cases, it reported. Surfers were involved in 77 of the incidents. According to department statistics, an overwhelming majority of cases, 176, were confirmed or suspected to have involved great white sharks.

In June, a 39-year-old surfer in Northern California was seriously injured when a great white bit him at Gray Whale Cove State Beach in San Mateo County. NBC Bay Area reported that the surfer was bitten in the back of his right thigh. He was treated with advanced life support measures at the scene, officials said.

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