NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. – It was a long summer of surgeries and recovery for a Central Florida 12-year-old. Nearly two months after getting bitten by a shark, the Jai Villamil said he is ready to get back to school and sports.
“A lot of people are really nervous when they first surf there because it’s shark bite capital of the world,” Jai Villamil said.
With a love for surfing, though, Villamil ventured from home in Cocoa Beach to New Smyrna on June 14 with a surf coach and friends.
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“I just got off the wave and I stepped off my board to turn back out and then I thought I was getting bit by a dog because it took me a while to register that I’m in the ocean,” he said.
That surf coach, Charley Hajek, rushed to help. He wrapped a board leash around Jai’s leg to stop the bleeding. Jai was the second person to be bit that day in New Smyrna Beach.
“It was the most terrifying thing ever,” Jamerica Villamil, Jai Villamil’s mom, said.
The bite ripped a nerve and tore Jai’s Achilles tendon. After four surgeries, he will head to his first day of school on a scooter and boot. His wounds are now forming scars and are mostly scabbed over.
“I can’t walk for the next four months probably because of my nerve. I don’t have any feeling on the bottom of my foot,” Jai said.
A Gofundme was set up by family friends. It’s raised close to $40,000 so far.
Jamerica Villamil said the community support has kept his spirits up.
“He doesn’t complain too much. He just does it. He’s getting around on his scooter,” she said.
Jai Villamil said he hopes he’ll be back in action soon to play soccer this fall and hit the water again.
“He loves it but I don’t know about New Smyrna,” Jamerica Villamil said with a laugh.
Volusia County beach patrol said there have been nine shark bites so far this year in the county. The most recent one was Saturday.