The New York man who lost his leg to a shark in the Bahamas got no help from lifeguards as he fought his way back to shore, his anguished wife said Tuesday.
"When you scream for help and you're a lifeguard, you're supposed to get in there. You're supposed to try to help," Ave Maria Thompson said, sobbing.
"What kind of lifeguards are those? I could do that. I could sit in a chair."
Krishna Thompson, a 38-year-old Wall Street banker from Central Islip, N.Y., lost his left leg just above the knee in Saturday's shark attack and was rushed to a Miami hospital, where he remains stable in critical condition.
Ave Marie Thompson swung from laughter to tears as she recounted the details of the attack at a Tuesday press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital. At first, she smiled and laughed as she called her husband a brave man who remained collected enough to retrieve his leg in the middle of a life-threatening situation.
"I'm very proud of him," she said. "He's a brave, brave man."
But later in the press conference, her attitude shifted dramatically. She sobbed and had to be consoled when she said that lifeguards did nothing to help him.
"One of the first things he said to me when they removed the ventilator was that he was screaming and they wouldn't come. He had to swim to them. I'm so hurt," she said.
But the CEO and general manager of the resort in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, said his lifeguards saw the victim -- and immediately jumped into the water and pulled him out.
The resort said Krishna Thompson was probably in shock — and that may account for the different stories.
The Thompsons arrived Friday in Freeport for their 10th wedding anniversary. The next morning, Krishna Thompson went to enjoy a dip in the ocean as his wife slept late. As the banker splashed around in the water, a shark clamped its teeth on his leg below the knee. He fought off the shark with his fists and reached back into the shark’s maw to snatch his dismembered leg, then limped to shore holding the bloody limb in his hand.
"It's amazing what this guy did. He apparently was fighting this thing off with his bare hands," hospital trauma surgeon Nicholas Namias said.
The shark tore off most of the soft tissue on Thompson's leg, severing nerves and arteries. The shark's teeth came just short of the bone, leaving muscle, skin and fat just hanging from shreds of skin, Namias said.
A doctor who was jogging on the beach saw him, took a belt from a bystander and used it to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, Namias said. Before passing out on the beach, Thompson managed to write his wife's room number in the sand so she’d know where to find him.
Namias said it was incredible that Thompson was doing as well as he was.
"The injuries that he had, he should have bled to death right there in the Bahamas on the beach," he said.
Before breaking down in tears as she discussed the scene on the beach, Ave Maria Thompson laughed as she said her husband retained his sense of humor. She said that, as he lay in bed with tubes in his mouth, she asked her husband if he wanted anything, and he wrote:
Namias said Thompson should be able to leave the hospital and go into physical rehabilitation in about a week or so. Ave Maria Thompson said her husband is athletic and she told him he could still run and dance again with help of prosthetics
There have been at least two other high-profile shark attacks this summer. Eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast remains hospitalized in Pensacola, Fla., following a July 6 attack in which he lost an arm that doctors were able to reattach.
George Burgess, head of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, said a swimmer's chance of being attacked is no greater than it has been in recent years. There have been 31 shark attacks worldwide this year, including one fatality.
Of those, 21 were in U.S. waters, including 16 off Florida's coast.
Last year, there were 79 shark attacks worldwide, 51 of them in the United States and 34 in Florida. The total number of shark attacks worldwide has increased in the past decade, but the number of swimmers in shark-infested waters is also much higher.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.