'It was like Jaws.' Shark-attack grandmother reveals how she fought off maneaterBy Martin Gould
Last updated at 2:09 PM on 25th May 2011
Ocean lover Alayna DeBina was enjoying her own little bit of paradise, teaching her young grandson how to search for turtles in Hawaii's azure waters, when they both nearly became breakfast for one of the world's most feared predators.
As the dental office manager stood on her paddle board with three-year-old Manoa sitting in front of her, she felt a crunch.
'Actually it was a pretty good collision,' she told MailOnline. 'Manoa and I were both thrown in the water on opposite sides of the board. I thought we'd hit a turtle but then I realized what it was.'
What it was was a 16-foot man-eating tiger shark, a killing machine easily big enough to finish off both Mrs. DeBina and grandson.
'I could tell it was a tiger shark because of its square nose,' says Mrs. DeBina. 'It must have been two feet across'
'It came out of the water like something out of "Jaws." The only difference was that its eyes didn't roll back in its head,' she told MailOnline.
'I had my hand on the shark, my legs were touching it,' Mrs. DeBina, 45,said. 'I kicked at it and made pretty solid contact.'
She says she somehow managed to stay calm, her main fear being for her grandson, who suffers from epilepsy, can't swim and was not wearing a life jacket.
'Somehow he managed to get round to the back of the board. He did a good job of keeping his head above water,' Mrs. DeBina said. 'I swam round to him and just threw him on.
Alayna DeBina, her grandson Manoa, 3, and husband Frank. Alayna now plans to have a sharkstooth tattoo inked on her ribcage.
As she started to clamber on behind him, Mrs. DeBina made the paddleboard "tombstone," with its front end lifted out of the water.
'I was worrying that Manoa would fall off the back and into the water, but he clung on.'
The drama happened on Sunday morning at Lyman Beach on the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Mrs. DeBina and her husband Frank, 49, were boarding when they saw four or five turtles in the water.
When Manoa joined them, she decided to take him with her in the hunt for the graceful reptiles.
'What I should have thought about is that turtles are one of a tiger shark's favourite snacks,' Mrs. DeBina said. 'Instead, it chomped on my board.'
That chomp left a 17-inch bite on the board. One tooth mark alone is more than an inch across.
Mrs. DeBina now plans to get the gash on her paddleboard lacquered as a permanent reminder of her encounter with the killer shark
When she fell in the water, Mrs. DeBina yelled to her stonemason husband for help. 'I was screaming "shark, shark" at the top of my lungs.
'He couldn't hear what I was saying, he thought I was just screaming because my grandson was in the water.'
Mr. DeBina paddled out and reached his wife within seconds, but by then the monster of the deep had swum off to search for easier prey.
Though she admits she was 'petrified,' Mrs. DeBina now says she can't wait to get back in the water. 'The chances of me being attacked twice are ridiculously slim,' she said.
The shark and Mrs. DeBina were both looking for turtles off picturesque Lyman Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
But she's not so sure she will take Manoa with her next time. 'I look back and wonder if I did put him in danger, but there are always couldas, shouldas and wouldas. I wonder if there are any lessons to be learned don't think I would have done anything differently.
'I'm not scared of sharks. I was in their territory and I have a reverence for that.'
As for the little boy, he is philosophical about his brush with death. 'He told his mother that the shark didn't mean to bite our board,' says Mrs. DeBina. 'He said it was just an accident and the shark's really sorry.'
Judging by the size of the bite marks on Mrs. DeBina's board, experts believe the shark was at least 16 feet long.
Tiger sharks' normal diet includes large sea creatures including dolphins, turtles and fish. They are known as the ocean's garbage can because tyres, licence plates and oil cans have often been found in their stomachs.
Police immediately launched a helicopter search of the area, posting warning signs along the beach outside the town of Kailua-Kona. But they found nothing.
Sharks have killed 14 people off Hawaii in the last 30 years, although there hasn't been a fatality since 2004 when surfer Willis McInnis, 57, was attacked off Maui. All those in which the species was known have involved tiger sharks.
The last fatal attack off the Big Island was also off Kailua-Kona in 1987, when Daniel Kennedy was killed as he swam out to an anchored yacht. His body was never found but his swimming trunks were discovered bitten in half on the seabed.
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