On Friday morning, Hawaii saw its fifth shark attack this year when a surfer was bitten off Oahu’s North Shore.
At around 10:25 a.m., a 911 call came in for an injured 25-year-old male surfer. The incident occurred near the popular surf spot known as Leftovers.
Family and friends identified the man as Colin Cook, who lives on Oahu, and confirmed the shark took his leg.
They say Cook was sitting on his surfboard, waiting for a wave, when he saw a school of fish jumping out of the water.
Shortly after that, they say the shark attacked him from underneath. Cook tried to fight it off and managed to punch it a couple of times before the shark swam off.
“He swam on his own free will to another surfer who threw him onto his board and paddled him straight to shore,” said Cook’s cousin, Chris Webster.
Drew Zarba told KHON2 he saw Cook screaming for help. “He was screaming ‘shark’ and ‘help,'” said Zarba, so “I grabbed the surfboard and I laid it down right here as he was pulling off his leash off.”
Zarba said they used a surfboard leash to put a tourniquet on Cook’s thigh.
“(Cook) said three things: How is my leg? I’m thirsty, and where is the ambulance?” Zarba said.
According to Shayne Enright, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Department spokeswoman, “the patient suffered critical injuries to his left leg… and he did suffer some abrasions to his hand, mostly trying to fend off the shark.”
It is not clear how far out Cook was at the time of the incident. A group of men and women on shore helped carry Cook up to the highway on a surfboard.
People on the beach said they were about to go in the water when they saw people helping Cook.
“At first, I thought it was red board shorts, but you could actually see a lot of blood loss,” said witness Alexis Aguada.
“He was not walking. All his buddies were surrounding him and helping him out if the water,” said witness Miranda Mazariegos. “He was kind of limping.”
First responders took over treatment and EMS rushed Cook to Queen’s Medical Center in critical condition.
“He never lost consciousness. He had a pulse the whole time,” said Zarba. “He was breathing the whole time. He was clearly in shock.”
Friends and family told KHON2 doctors had to amputate most of his leg after the attack.
“During the attack, the shark got him below the knee and it took off below the knee cap, but they had to take his leg above the knee so that was a little heart-breaking,” Webster said.
“I was just holding his head and trying to keep him to focus on me,” said Cook’s friend John Carper. “He kept rolling his eyes back and just looked like he was going.”
Webster says despite his injuries, Cook remains in good spirits, and was even joking around before going into surgery.
“He’s stable right now. He’s out of surgery. He just got off the phone with his father so he’s doing good,” Webster added.
His family praised doctors, emergency responders, and beachgoers who came to his rescue. EMS says bystanders’ quick actions ultimately helped save his life.
Lifeguards patrolled the waters to warn people of the incident and advise them not to go into the water. Warning signs were posted from Laniakea Beach to Waimea Bay.
Witnesses reported the shark to be 10-12 feet, but there is no confirmation on the type of shark.
Ocean Safety reported a second shark sighting Friday. It’s not clear if this was the same shark from the attack or a different one.
Ocean Safety and the Honolulu Fire Department personnel are patrolling the same areas Saturday morning and at noon, if there are no shark sightings, an all-clear will be given.
In an odd twist, shark attack survivor Mike Coots was at the scene of Friday’s incident.
He was shooting a documentary about his personal experience.
In 1997, a shark attacked coots while he was bodyboarding off Kauai’s west side.
“I just paddled for a wave, it came up, grabbed me, shook me back and forth,” he recalled. “I punched it a couple times and went back underwater.”
Coots also lost his leg.
He says he learned “that life goes on and you can still surf. There’s nothing that’s going to stop you from surfing, getting back in the water.”
Coots says he does not blame the shark. In fact, he’s actually trying to fight to protect the ocean predator from poachers and overfishing.
Today’s shark bite incident marks the fifth one this year, compared to six incidents last year.
Last month, a Hawaii Island man was bit on the leg by a tiger shark while spearfishing at Upolu Point.
In April, a man died after being attacked while snorkeling in Ahihi Bay on Maui.
A month before that, a Kansas visitor was bitten on his arm by a tiger shark while snorkeling at Hapuna Beach on Hawaii Island.
In January, a man was bitten on the leg while fishing on Maui.