Call it heroism, call it madness, call it what you will; this story is off the charts on the bravery meter. In 2001, in the shallow waters of Langdon Beach, Florida, an 8-year-old boy named Jesse Arbogast had his arm bitten off in a shark attack.
His uncle – who was sitting on the beach at the time – then did something completely unprecedented. After swimming out to save his nephew, carry him ashore and give him heart massage until medical assistance arrived – hero wrestles shark to retrieve nephew’s severed arm.
Witnesses said the uncle, who asked not to be named, grappled with the creature and dragged it out of the water for Jared Klein, a park ranger, to shoot it three times in the head. Mr Klein then used a baton to prise open the shark’s jaws while Tony Thomas, a volunteer fireman, reached into its mouth and pulled the arm from the shark’s gullet.
A helicopter had already flown Jesse to hospital. Wrapped in moist towels, the arm was put in a plastic bag and encased in ice before it was driven via ambulance to the operating theatre.Jesse, from Ocean Springs, Missouri, had been on holiday with his parents, David and Claire, his uncle, aunt, a brother and several other children.
Jesse was given 30 pints of blood during 11 hours of surgery after being brought into Baptist Hospital, Pensacola. Dr Ian Rogers, the plastic surgeon who reattached the arm, said he was hopeful that Jesse would regain full use of it again.
“Amazingly this was a clean cut. You don’t usually expect that in a shark attack because they tend to slash and tear their victims.” The doctor said. “We were lucky, too, in that the arm was remarkably clean. I think that was because it went straight down the shark’s throat.”
A hospital spokesman said: “He shows no sign of infection and no sign of losing blood supply or blood flow to the arm. These are all good signs.”
John Bandurski, District Ranger supervisor, said the uncle’s actions had been remarkable. “He just wrestled it. His uncle’s a big guy and he got hold of it and tossed it ashore.”
Mr Klein, who used a 9mm pistol to shoot the shark, said: “It’s certainly not something I expected to see in my career.”