Teen Surf Star Loses Arm in Shark Attack

ByABC News via via logo

L I H U E, Hawaii, Nov. 3, 2003 -- After heading out to surf on what seemed to be peaceful waters, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton is lucky to be alive today.

The teen surfing star managed to survive a terrifying shark attack on Friday as she was lying on her surfboard in the calm waters off the North shore of Kauai, Hawaii.

The young girl had her arm dangling in the shallow water when a shark surfaced and lopped off her arm.

A bite out of Bethany's board measured about 16 inches across and 8 inches deep, penetrating nearly to the center of the board.

Authorities at the scene say the bite mark suggests the shark was 12 to 15 feet long.

Randy Honebrink, spokesman for the state Shark Task Force said it could have been a tiger shark.

No Warning

Tom Hamilton, Bethany's father, said no one saw what happened, but they heard her screaming that a shark had bitten her. Bethany managed to hold onto her board until the shark let go.

According to witnesses, it was the quick-thinking assistance of a family friend and onlookers that helped save Hamilton's life. The young girl was brought to shore where her best friend's father, Holt Blanchard, used a surfboard leash as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

Dr. David Rovinsky at Wilcox Memorial Hospital said the shark ripped off Hamilton's arm just below the left shoulder, and that her top condition as a competitive athlete helped her survive the huge blood loss.

"She was alert and awake and talking and wasn't losing any blood, really because she had had a tourniquet applied around her shoulder," Rovinsky said.

She is listed in stable condition at Wilcox Memorial Hospital and is expected to undergo further surgery today.

Hamilton, of Princeville, was attacked a quarter-mile off Makua Beach near Haena, in an area know as The Tunnels. She had been surfing with her best friend, Alana Blanchard, 13, and Alana's father. Before the attack, Hamilton was expected to become a professional surfer.

Bethany won the explorer women's division of the NationalScholastic Surfing Association's Open and Explorer event on Kauai back in August. Before that she won the women's division at the Local Motion-EzekielSurf Into Summer contest at Ala Moana on Oahu, beating out older surfers.

Bethany's father said he's not sure if she will surf again.

The shark attack was the fourth in Hawaii this year. The state's last shark attack this year was on Oct. 5, when a woman was bitten whileswimming near Kihei on Maui.

The beaches were officially reopened Saturday afternoon, after officials flew over the area and saw no evidence of other sharks.

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