A black tip reef shark. DAVID CLODE/Unsplash

A Texas woman swimming with her family not far from Summerland Key on June 29 knew something wasn’t right when she felt instant pain coming from her leg. 

Immediately, the 35-year-old got back onto a boat with help from her husband, surfacing with a visible leg injury from what looked to be a shark bite. 

An incident report by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission released on July 5 states that the family of four stopped their pontoon vessel on the gulfside east of Sawyer Key around 8 p.m. to jump in the clear, calm water for a swim. They were in about 10 feet of water.

When the female, identified as Lindsay Bruns, jumped into the water, her husband, Luke, heard a huge splash and turned to see lots of splashing and water coming over into the vessel. He described the splash as too big for his wife just jumping into the water. 

The husband reported that he saw nothing but blood in the water. His wife appeared from the water screaming for help, at which time he jumped into the water to retrieve her. He assisted her onto the ladder and into the vessel to discover a large wound in her right leg. Per the FWC report, it was consistent with a shark attack. The husband began to apply a tourniquet in an attempt to stop the profuse bleeding. 

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation officers received the call around 8:09 p.m. They rode to Niles Channel on the gulfside, near Tonio’s Restaurant, when they saw the pontoon boat. FWC officers boarded the boat when they saw what’s described as a half-circle wound on her right leg extending from the hip to just above the knee. 

“The cut appeared to be from a serrated impact, and there were puncture marks on her thigh, consistent with a shark attack,” the report states. 

FWC officers began to apply a tourniquet. Monroe County Fire Rescue arrived to finish applying the tourniquet. They transported Bruns to a nearby airport where Trauma Star flew her to Jackson South Medical Center for further care. FWC officers remained on scene to help clean the boat while Luke Bruns attended to his children. Officer Cobb drove the vessel back to the residence where the Bruns were staying. 

According to a Monroe County press release, the patient received a blood transfusion during the flight. According to Trauma Star staff, the blood transfusion onboard strongly contributed to the patient’s status upon arrival in Miami. 

“The biggest thing for us was the fact that it wasn’t a boating accident,” said Jason Rafter, public information officer with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

The hospital also confirmed the patient’s wound was a shark bite. She remains hospitalized. According to Rafter, the woman is doing well considering the injury. 

“Surgeries have been a success so far,” he told the Keys Weekly. “I spoke to her husband and she was doing quite well considering what happened.”

Monroe County has seen two reported shark bites in recent months. On April 17, a man hanging out with friends at the Islamorada sandbar near Whale Harbor was reportedly bitten. His neighbor, Ash Kumar, of Islamorada, was with him during that Sunday afternoon. 

Kumar told the Keys Weekly that the group of eight people was standing around in waist-deep water when one of the guys felt something touch his leg. All of a sudden, Kumar’s neighbor said something grabbed him. He pulled his leg up and said “what was that?”

Thankfully, two firefighters were with the group. They quickly retrieved a towel to tightly wrap the leg. A Coast Guard vessel was near the sandbar as the incident unfolded. The crew was signaled over to render aid and get him on land where he was transported to Mariners Hospital. 

“The water was murky and nobody saw it,” he said. “Whatever shark it was, it didn’t take a full bite and leave with the calf.

“You can see the tooth mark in there,” he continued.” From outside, it looks clean, but part of that wound was the leg pulling away. It (the shark) grabbed the leg and realized it’s not a fish and took off.”

The man has recovered from the incident. 

Data from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File states that shark bites picked up in 2021 following three previous years of decline. The U.S. led the world in shark bites last year with 47. Of those incidents, Florida had 28. 

As for the bites reported in Florida, research from the Florida Museum states that blacktip sharks are likely responsible for the majority of the incidents. These small sharks hunt in warm water near shorelines where they use shallows to avoid predators of their own, including great hammerheads and bull sharks. 

“The shallow water and turbulent waves in surf zones kick up sediment that make it hard for sharks to sight their prey,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum’s shark research program. “About 60% of all bites we record are in low visibility water.”

Two other shark bite incidents were recently reported in Florida. A teenage girl scalloping in 5 feet of water near Grassy Island, just off Keaton Beach, was bitten in the leg by a shark on June 30. According to the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office, Addison Bethea was airlifted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Health Care for emergency surgeries. On July 5, multiple news outlets reported that Bethea was set to undergo amputation above the knee. 

And according to a WFLA report, a Dayton Beach man was bitten on the foot by a shark on the morning of July 3. The report states that a 29-year-old man was swimming in New Smyrna Beach when he was bitten. The man was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. 

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).