Friday, May 10, 2013

Free Diver Attacked by Bull Shark Off East Africa on March 29th, 2013

Shark attack survivor Richard Parkinson reached out to us via Facebook to tell us about his shark incident which occurred in the waters of East Africa on March 29, 2013.

In his own words…Richard posted the following account on his FB page:

Shark attack survivor Richard Parkinson shows bite injury
"On Friday, 29th March, while training free-diving (no spear gun) in East Africa, I was ready to ascend from a 100 ft dive when a big bullshark (some experts are saying 7 ft long after analyzing the bite) for me it was honestly 9 to 10 ft long, it approached me from about 100 ft away with an unusual behavior, very alert and curious, more interested in me than any other shark I've seen.

I started my ascent expecting the usual last minute turn-around-and-gone move they always do. However, it kept coming closer, and when it was about 10 ft away, really increased speed and reached my left leg in what seemed less than a second, he bit between the knee and ankle, shook its head a couple of times and released me.

One of my fins fell out in the commotion but I managed to reach the surface with one fin, while praying he didn't come for a second bite. The boat came quickly after hearing my screams. Immediately on the boat, a tourniquet stopped the heavy arterial bleeding and doctors say is what kept me alive for the 70 mile trip back to the main island where I got treated.

Special thanks to the team and all the people who helped me through. This behavior in the shark still makes no sense to me, but reminds us they are 100% unpredictable. It's still a very happy outcome considering the magnitude of the event."


On April 16, Richard had his stitches removed.  He still cannot walk and it will take several months for his nerves and tendons to regenerate.  Following the removal of the stitches, they reapplied another cast to further assist with the healing. Richard does expect to have a full recovery.

Richard commented that he still likes sharks and that they played an important role in him becoming a Marine Biologist.  But what has changed for Richard is his confidence.  He always felt comfortable in the presence of sharks no matter their size.  But for now, that is gone.  He doesn't know what his feelings will be the next time he encounters a shark underwater but added that he still appreciates and respects them.

Surprisingly, Richard’s attack has never been covered in the media.  He has reported the incident to Dr. Burgess, Director of the International Shark Attack File, and to Dr. Gruber, Professor at the University of Miami's Rosential School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, but to date has not received a reply.  He also has reached out to Dr. Erich Ritter, the executive director of SAVN™, the Shark Accident Victim Network, and Dr. Ritter told Richard that he would include the attack in their list.

Thank you to Richard for letting us share his story (and photo) and we all wish him a quick and complete recovery.