76ºF

Woman bitten by shark off Vero Beach

Woman bitten on thigh, swims to shore, walks to chair before seeking help

VERO BEACH, Fla. – On what was an otherwise perfect beach day, a shark bit a woman in front of the Costa d’ Este hotel at about noon Sunday.

The woman, who was bitten on the thigh, swam to shore and walked to her chair before asking for help.

New 6 partner Florida Today reports Vero Beach police Officer Anna Carden said Mary Marcus, 57, of Palm Coast, was in stable condition at Indian River Medical Center Sunday afternoon.

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Elsewhere, people remained in the water, swimming and surfing in the clear calm waters. There were no other shark encounters reported along the public beaches Sunday, officials said.

“She handled it like a champ,” Fort Lauderdale visitor Tracee Kromann said of Marcus. “She was super calm.”

“I glad it wasn’t any worse,” said Erik Toomsoo, spokesman for the Vero Beach Lifeguard Association. The woman swam through what Toomsoo termed “shark alley,” an area between two reefs paralleling the shore.

That is where sharks are looking for bait fish,” Toomsoo said. He and other lifeguards usually don’t swim farther than 20 yards from shore to avoid the reef zone.

The first reef is an artificial reef near the hotel that was put in to control beach erosion.Farther out is a natural reef.

In addition to avoiding that area, he advises people to stay near lifeguards.

Marcus, who staying at Costa d’ Este, swam out about 100 yards from shore around noon. The shark came up and bit her once, said Kromann, whose beach chair was close to the woman’s. “She wrapped her leg with a towel, and I saw little blood.”

Humiston Beach lifeguard Ellis Baker was the second lifeguard to rush to where the woman was sitting. “It was a bite and release,” Baker said.

Hotel staff told people on the beach what happened.

Afterward, Kromann and her husband, Michael, planned to go swimming. Hundreds of people remained in the water Sunday after the incident as temperatures climbed into the low 90s.

Sunday’s incident is in the same general area where a German tourist was bitten by a shark in May 2012.

The last shark bite, said Toomsoo, was in the area of John’s Island around Christmas. In November 2013, a shark bit the Achilles tendon of a Peruvian visitor.