California swimmer survives great white shark attack

PACIFIC GROVE, California (KRON) – A swimmer enjoying the water off Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, Calif., suffered injuries to his leg, stomach and arm this week after being attacked by a great white shark.

Steve Bruemmer, 62, of Monterey, got out of the water alive as surf instructor Heath Braddock and two stand-up paddleboarders Paul Bandy and Amy Johns swung into action.

Bandy is a Sacramento police officer and Johns is a nurse. Braddock is a respected surfer who often rides powerful waves at Moss Landing. On Wednesday, he used all of his paddling strength to save the swimmer’s life.

He was at Lovers Point Beach at the right time while leading a sea excursion for a group of children visiting from Kansas.

“They had never been in the ocean before. We were deeply at home with the ocean, embracing the nature of the ocean,” he told Nexstar’s KRON on Friday.

When the great white shark attacked Bruemmer, the kids in Kansas “got totally immersed, that’s for sure,” Braddock said. “They’ve seen it all”

As the children stood on the shore, Braddock grabbed two surfboards and paddled both boards towards the screaming swimmer.

“He was at 300 feet. Many tourists are crying wolf and shouting “shark!” This is rarely the case. It’s usually a dolphin. But this guy kept screaming frantically. I saw the pool of blood around him so I knew it was real,” Braddock said.

“The stand-up paddleboarders arrived 10 seconds before me. I told them about a plan I had. I asked Paul to help me put the victim on my biggest board. I pulled on his good arm and they lifted the other arm that had been bitten off. His leg wound was the most pronounced, his bone was fully visible. Most of the damage was on his belly, the front side,” Braddock said.

As the injured Bruemmer held the surfer’s ankle, “I rowed as hard as I could,” Braddock said.

The swimmer returned to the beach as paramedics and police arrived. Paramedics applied tourniquets to prevent further blood loss. Pacific Grove Police Chief Cathy Madalone wrote, “We want to express our gratitude and appreciation to the good Samaritans who took immediate action and took personal risk to help the swimmer.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife forensic laboratory confirmed that the shark was a great white shark.

The shark bite marks on its body were so large that Bruemmer said he was told the great white could grow up to 20ft. Great white sharks can be up to 20 feet long, depending on the Smithsonian Institutebut most females are between 15 and 16 feet tall, while male great whites average 11 to 13 feet.

Braddock said the swimmer was still recovering in hospital on Friday. “Steve is more stable today. His wife said he was in good spirits,” the surfer said.

“He was a very big shark. He will survive, but his recovery will be long,” another swimmer told KRON.

Bruemmer’s friends said he was an avid swimmer who usually didn’t swim on Wednesdays. But the warm, sunny weather made him decide to go swimming. He is part of a local swimming club, the Kelp Krawlers.

Braddock has surfed Monterey Bay for decades and he knows three other surfers who survived great white shark attacks off the coasts of Big Sur, Davenport and Marina. One of the surfers was nicknamed “Shark Bait” after being attacked near Point Sur Lighthouse. “He still surfs today,” noted Braddock.

“All these guys were on surfboards so they only had teeth on their backs. But the swimmer got it both ways because he had nothing protecting him,” Braddock said.

Great white shark attacks on humans are rare, but from past attacks, local marine biologists know that great whites usually strike once before moving away. That’s because the apex ocean predator prefers to eat sea lions and harbor seals, not people.

Emergency officials posted shark warning signs along Pacific Grove beaches after Wednesday’s attack and closed the beaches. Police are monitoring the water using an aerial drone, but so far the shark has not been spotted.

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