Shark attack victim thanks friend, others
Kihei teen ‘pretty fortunate’ after suffering bites on leg
December 28, 2010 - By MELISSA TANJI, Staff Writer
Teenager Vaun Stover-French said he felt something grab his leg, then turned around to see a shark nipping at him while he was body boarding near Kahului Harbor on Sunday afternoon.
He estimated the fish was 8 to 10 feet long.
"I was just freaking out just trying to get out of the water," the 15-year-old said Monday, while recuperating at home in Kihei from multiple gashes to his left leg. (A story on Page A3 Monday had an incorrect age due to information provided to The Maui News).
"I didn't know what was going on. It surprised me," he said.
"I felt it grab my leg. I looked back and I saw the shark on my leg. . . . I felt it on my leg so I pulled back and it cut on my leg and it bit on my ankle," he said.
Stover-French said the bite didn't actually hurt but his limb felt numb, perhaps as a result of all the adrenaline rushing through his body.
Around 3:35 p.m. Sunday, Stover-French and his friend Joseph Mannoia were body boarding in an area called Ledges outside the Kahului Harbor breakwater, around 100 feet from shore, when he was bitten.
On Monday, Stover-French, a Kihei Charter High School sophomore, was surrounded by family and friends who came to his home to comfort him and talk about his experience.
"He was pretty fortunate," said Stover-French's father, Randy French, who said he was scared when he first was notified that his son had been attacked by a shark. "He's got some good scars to show."
French said his son has more than 60 staples in his leg and foot.
Stover-French said he has a 10-inch vertical cut on his left shin, which was around 1 inch wide before doctors closed it; and he also has a "pretty deep open cut" on top of his foot near his big toe. Plus, "scratches all over."
He described his heel and his foot as looking like "hamburger meat."
"Now it really freaks me out. It was hard to believe at first," Stover-French said, recalling the attack.
He said doctors have told him he will have to use crutches and allow his wounds to heal for about a week and a half to two weeks before he is able to go about his normal business.
Stover-French thanked his friend Mannoia, also a sophomore at Kihei Charter, for helping him, as well as the other surfers who were in the water. Kai Barger and Tanner Hendrickson, two professionals who were riding inside, helped Stover-French get to shore within 15 minutes after the attack, and bystanders pitched in to maneuver the injured boy over the slippery rocks.
"I wouldn't have made it if my friend wasn't there with me," Stover-French said.
Barger said Sunday he believed that Stover-French could have bled to death, but for a tourniquet made from a board leash and the quick appearance of Maui fire-rescue emergency medical technicians on the shore.
Stover-French said the only other shark encounter he's had was in Kihei many years ago when he saw a shark a few feet from him.
Even though he was bitten this time, Stover-French said he'll still hit the waves. "No reason to stop," he said.
Although the attack scared him, he added, "It's just not something that happens very often."
State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials and Maui County ocean safety officers closed off the ocean for a mile around the place where Stover-French and the shark met. On Monday, waters from Kahului Harbor to Paukukalo were reopened at noon.
A DLNR official said officers saw no signs of a shark Monday.
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