ENCINITAS, Calif. — A teen boy is in serious condition after he was attacked by a shark off Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas Saturday morning, according to health officials.
Calls came in about the attack around 7 a.m., the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department confirmed. Deputies rushed to the scene to assist lifeguards and Encinitas fire officials.
The victim was a young teen who was on a lobster diving trip with his church youth group. Lobster diving season opened at 6 a.m. Saturday. Photos from the scene showed lifeguards treating the boy on the beach before transferring him to a helicopter to be taken to the hospital.
Chad Hammel, who was out with a group of friends diving for lobster, helped rescue the boy and bring him to safety on their kayak. Hammel said his group had been out diving for about a half hour that morning when they heard screaming. At first he thought it was the excited yell of a fellow lobster diver. But then, “I realized that he was yelling, ‘I got bit! I got bit!'” Hammel said.
The group paddled over to the boy and pulled him onto the kayak. They quickly realized the teen was suffering from serious bite injuries and bleeding badly. “His whole clavicle was ripped open,” Hammel said. ” We told him he’s going to be okay, he’s going to be alright — we got help. I yelled at everyone to get out of the water: ‘There’s a shark in the water!'”
As the group paddled to shore, Hammel turned around to a terrifying sight: “Once we threw him up on the kayak and started heading in, that’s when I looked back, and the shark was behind the kayak. He didn’t want to give up yet.” Witnesses told FOX 5 that the shark was approximately 11-feet long.
The group of friends — some of whom had medical training — tried to keep the boy calm and put pressure on his wounds as blood filled their kayak.
People on the beach called paramedics who rushed to the scene and got the boy into a helicopter. He was airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgeries. The teen is in critical condition, but is expected to survive.
Tim Fairbanks, director of pediatric surgery at Rady, told reporters during a news conference that the boy — whose name wasn’t immediately released — was stabilized and taken into surgery.
“By the request of the family, we will not be releasing details as to the nature of his injuries or the treatments that were required,” Fairbanks said.
The beach will remain closed for 48 hours from La Costa Avenue to Swami’s Beach, Encinitas city officials said.
“We are working closely as a unified command with the California State Parks, California Fish and Game, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, City of Solana Beach and the City of Carlsbad to ensure public safety,” said Lifeguard Captain Larry Giles. “At this time, we have not received additional reports of any shark sightings in the area but are advising the public to stay out of the water.”
Lifeguard and Sheriff’s Departments are monitoring the area from patrol boats and helicopter.
The Carlsbad Police Department will be flying drones in the area to search for more sharks, according to Encinitas spokeswoman Lois Yum. No shark activity has been witnessed since the incident, city officials said.
California Fish and Game, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the city of Solana Beach and the city of Carlsbad were working with Dr. Chris Lowe from California State University, Long Beach, to determine the type of shark that caused the injury.
“It would definitely be very helpful if you do see any shark that you do contact your local lifeguard agency, Giles said. “And report it, don’t wait, let them get down there and try to identify what it is in the water,”
The family has set up a GoFundMe page.