Man bitten by shark at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park: ‘He got me pretty good’

play
Show Caption

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Truman Van Patrick said he’s been surfing since as long as he can remember, and has experienced close encounters with sharks.

On Monday at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park, however, a close encounter turned into an actual encounter as Patrick, 25, said a shark bit his left foot. 

“I’ve had sharks chase me before, and I free dive and spear fish … so I’m always kind of just dealing with them,” Patrick said. “Every time you go in the ocean you just take that gamble. It’s their zone. It’s their home.”

Database: Treasure Coast shark attacks

More: 18-year-old Port St. Lucie man dies after Thursday crash

More: Police identify Jensen Beach woman, 20, as person killed in Port St. Lucie shooting

Patrick said he’d caught a couple of waves and was getting back out to the lineup. He turned around and saw a dorsal fin pop out of the water. 

“I was like, ‘Oh, let me just catch one more in,’” Patrick said. “But you see sharks kind of like all over the place down here.”

After catching another wave, he said he hopped off his board about 20 to 30 yards from shore and felt “a massive bite on my foot.” 

Patrick said he asked a couple of people on the beach to call 911, and an ambulance came. He said his foot was wrapped up and he drove himself to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce, as opposed to going in an ambulance.

play

Taking a look at the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

The park offers beach access and several other amenities

Lamaur Stancil, Florida Today

“I felt pretty good. I knew I wasn’t going to die,” he said. “I could feel my toes, I could move my toes OK.” 

Patrick said he got 70 stitches, sustained broken bones and had to have a part of a tooth that was left in his foot removed. 

What attracts a shark?

“He got me pretty good,” Patrick said.

Patrick said he thought he was bitten because he fell in the water next to the shark.

“They attack off of movement,” Patrick said.

He said he is from the Boca Raton and West Palm Beach areas but lives in Okeechobee and moves around the state. 

Fort Pierce Inlet State Park is his favorite surfing location in the state.

It will take some time, and he’ll think about it differently, but Patrick plans to return to the water. 

“People should just be aware of what goes on in the ocean,” Patrick said.

This is at least the seventh shark bite on the Treasure Coast so far this year. Other attacks have been reported at:

Grant Gilmore, senior scientist at Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., in Vero Beach, said seven bites in 10 months does not sound out of the ordinary.

“In fact, I’d say it’s low,” Gilmore said. “On a global basis, we have the highest number of attacks on the east coast of Florida of any place on the planet.”

Gilmore said that’s mostly because people are in the water surfing and we are the “I-95 for sharks, which is the migration route from Cape Cod down to Mexico every year and this time of year, the shark populations start to increase with that migration.”

The mullet run occurs in the fall, which also attracts some sharks, he said.

“They’re after the mullet, along with the tarpon and snook so it’s sort of a melee along the beaches in September, October into November,” Gilmore said.

He said people are far more likely to be injured or killed in a car crash than be bitten by a shark when swimming.

Globally there are about six to eight fatalities from shark attacks a year, he said.

“The danger from shark attack is miniscule,” he said. “It’s really small.”

Will Greenlee is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Will on Twitter @OffTheBeatTweet or reach him by phone at 772-692-8936. E-mail him at [email protected]

If you’re a subscriber, thank you. If not, become a subscriber to get the latest breaking news and weird crime coverage.