PENSACOLA, Fla. – The uncle of an 8-year-old boy attacked by a shark tugged on its tail to free the child, whose right arm was bitten off in the process, a National Park Service report says.
"He's got me! Get him off me!" Jessie Arbogast yelled when the bull shark attacked, the report said.
The report provides new details on how Jessie's uncle managed to pull the shark to shore following the July 6 attack at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report Thursday.
It is partly based on telephone interviews given to rangers last week by Jessie's uncle and aunt, Vance and Diana Flosenzier. They have declined to speak to the media.
"Vance heard someone yell 'shark!' and a scream," Ranger Jared Klein wrote in the report. The uncle then saw a pool of blood in the water where the boy and other children were playing.
Jessie's arm was still in the jaws of the 7-foot bull shark when his uncle ran into the water, the report said.
"Vance grabbed the base of the tail of the shark and tried to pull it away from Jessie," Klein wrote. "Vance pulled a second time and the shark came free."
Jessie fell away from the shark, and an unidentified bystander caught him and carried him to shore, the report said. The boy, who was initially conscious, went into convulsions and stopped breathing, his aunt told Klein.
Clinging to the tail, 38-year-old Vance Flosenzier began stepping backward toward the beach. He told Klein the shark seemed to lose power as he dragged it backward, but it kept trying to swim away.
The uncle beached the shark about 10 feet away from Jessie, witnesses said.
Family members and bystanders performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the boy for 20 minutes until he was airlifted to the hospital, where his arm was reattached after 11 hours of surgery. The boy had also suffered a deep wound to his right leg and lost nearly all his blood.
Jessie, of Ocean Springs, Miss., remained in critical condition in a light coma at Sacred Heart Children's Hospital on Wednesday. He has shown slow improvement, but no update on his condition was immediately available Thursday.
George Burgess, executive director of the International Shark Attack File, said the shark lost much of its strength when the uncle took hold of its tail. That's the way sharks typically are handled, Burgess said.
"Without the tail it's like a car spinning its wheels," he said. "Because its wheel is essentially off the ground in the back, it has no traction."