Quick-thinking California beachgoers used a surfboard leash as a tourniquet to stem massive bleeding after a shark attacked a woman wading in the ocean in northern San Diego country on Saturday evening, the Orange County Register reports.
“All of the back of her leg was kind of missing,” one of the rescuers, 29-year-old Thomas Williams, told the outlet. “If she didn’t receive immediate care, it was life-threatening.”
After bystanders carried the woman from the water on a surfboard over slippery rock, Williams, who had passed an EMT training test, and others tended to her. She was later airlifted to a hospital. Several outlets said her condition is still unknown.
Rangers shut the San Onofre State Beach after the attack and posted shark attack warning signs.
The section of shore where the attack occurred — in an area popular with surfers called Church or Churches — is not known as a particularly dangerous spot for shark attacks. A 16-foot female great white shark was filmed a week ago, however, munching on the carcass of a dead humpback whale at Dana Point, about 25 miles north. And on Memorial Day, a swimmer was attacked off Corona del Mar, which is also about 25 miles north.
Great whites have also been spotted breaching in the region recently, notes Surfline.
Earlier this month, a shark beached itself in a rare occurrence in Santa Cruz.
The number of shark attacks is minuscule given the huge number of people swimming, surfing and wading in oceans around the globe. Still marine ecologists fear that global warming may increase shark encounters as fish populations change and more people than ever head to beaches. There were 98 unprovoked shark attacks on humans around the globe in 2015, according to data collected by the International Shark Attack File ― the highest annual total ever recorded. But 2016’s tally of 81 attacks was close to the annual average (82) from 2011 to 2015.
Earlier this year, surf champion Kelly Slater urged a “cull” of great whites off Reunion Island east of Madagascar after 20 shark attacks, eight of them fatal, since 2011. But U.S. surfer Mike Coots, who lost a leg in a shark attack, called culling “fundamentally wrong,” Surfline reported.
In the event of a shark attack, experts urge swimmers or surfers to fight back, punching a shark in the nose or poking its eyes and gills.
“You want to be aggressive because sharks appreciate size and power,” George Burgess, ISAF curator, told Time. “You want to fight like hell. Demonstrate you’re strong and not going to go down easy.”