Brian Wargo says when he saw his friend McKenzie Clark being lifted out of the water by a shark as they were paddling out to surf off the coast of Hawaii, he doesn't remember what he was thinking, he just went to rescue his friend.
It happened Friday, when Wargo and Clark were going to surf just off Halaula Lighthouse in North Kohala.
"The waves were nice, four to five feet, beautiful sunny morning, good surfing weather -- quite a few people were surfing when we got there," Wargo said.
But as he was paddling out, Wargo said, he heard Clark scream. At first, she didn't know what she'd hit, he said.
"She thought she hit a rock," Wargo said. "I looked over and saw her being lifted out of the water by a large shark -- I saw the dorsal fin and I saw the tail, kicking really hard, and she was screaming -- I could tell right away it was a large shark"
Wargo estimated that the shark was about 12 feet long. He said he doesn't remember thinking about what to do -- but just started paddling over to Clark to rescue his friend.
"She was being lifted out of the water, and screaming -- she was being carried on the nose of the shark. I got closer -- but then the shark turned and bit her again on her left hand," he said. "I saw her grab her hand and rip it out of the shark's mouth, then she fell off the back of her board."
The shark bit her board, then started swimming out to sea with it, but Clark was attached to her board with a leash, Wargo said.
"She was attached to the board and the shark was pulling her under the water," he said. "She couldn't get the leash off her foot. I saw the shark coming at her again, I grabbed the dorsal of the shark. I started kicking at the shark and using my board -- I started punching the shark. I felt like I was going to break my hand -- but the shark shuddered, and then headed out to sea."
Clark and Wargo scrambled on top of their boards, paddled back to shore and made the run to safety, he said.
Wargo said it was a tense drive to the hospital -- 25 miles from the beach -- to get help for Clark, who kept her hand wrapped in her wetsuit and a towel.
"I called 911 and let them know we had a shark bite victim," he said. "She was in shock, but she was tough about the whole thing and handled it like a champ."
Wargo runs a fishing charter business, and says he deals with a lot of big fish. He is an unassuming hero who says he had one thought in his mind when he rescued Clark: "I didn't want that shark to eat my friend."
Clark was treated and released from North Hawaii Community Hospital.