A shark bit a Lakeview boy swimming with his family in Lake Pontchartrain Friday afternoon. The attack happened off of Southshore Harbor.
Shelly Trentacosta said her family had borrowed a friend's sailboat and ventured out into the lake. With conditions calm and the water clear, it was a much better day for swimming than sailing, so the boaters decided to anchor up and take a dip.
Everyone was enjoying the cool lake water and having a good time, including Trentacosta's 7-year-old son, Trent.
"The kids were bunched up together playing, and Trent just started screaming," Trentacosta said. "We started swimming to him, and I didn't know what was going on. I grabbed his leg, and there was a lot of blood."
Trentacosta towed her son back to the sailboat to get a better look, but his foot was covered with blood. Her first thought, she said, was that he had stepped on a stingray. But there was too much blood for that. Then she wondered if he had scraped his foot against a log covered with barnacles.
Either way, she knew she needed to get him medical care. She rushed back to the harbor, loaded him into the car and drove to the nearest urgent care. There, doctors were able to clean the foot, and informed Trentacosta that her son had been bitten by a shark.
Bite marks were clearly visible surrounding his heel and on his big toe.
"(Trent) had been screaming so much," Trentacosta said. "It wasn't until he settled down that he told us something charged at him from under the water.
"He said that when he was swimming, something bumped him from the back. He turned around to look, and then he felt it swim around to the front of him, and when he turned again, it charged at him."
Many boaters are unaware there are sharks in Lake Pontchartain, but at certain times of the year, there are plenty, according to Mitchell Chevalier, who tags sharks for the University of New Orleans and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That includes bull sharks, which are among the world's man-eaters.
After being told of the attack on young Trent, Chevalier wondered if it was something other than a shark.
"Garfish are laid-back creatures, but if one was swimming by and his foot accidentally touched the nose of the gar, it might have snapped at him as a reaction," Chevalier said.
His skepticism was rooted in the fact that most of the bigger sharks are out of Lake Pontchartrain at this time of year.
"Generally, your big female bull sharks aren't in the lake right now. They've already moved in, pupped out and left," Chevalier said. "Now granted, there are still 6-footers in the lake, but I'm speechless that one might have bitten somebody."
Chevalier said the females that move into the lake to give birth are between 7 and 8 feet in length.
After viewing photos of Trent's foot, however, Chevalier said there was no longer any question.
"Without a doubt, it's a bull shark -- probably around 5 feet," he said.
Trentacosta said doctors expect Trent to make a full recovery. He's unable to walk on his foot, so he'll have to rest until it heals. Some of the cuts were deep and wide enough that they would have been aided by stitches, but the family elected not to go that route.
"(Trent) was kind of freaked out," Trentacosta said. "We decided we'll just wrap them and keep them taped together."
She's still incredulous that her son was bitten by a shark in Lake Pontchartrain.
"We've been swimming in the lake forever," she said. "You don't think something like that will happen. That was the last thought that crossed my mind.
"I'm just glad it got him on the foot. If it had gotten him on his calf or somewhere with some meat, it could have been a lot worse. He literally had to kick it off. It was clamped down."