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Attack Victim: ‘I Never Saw the Shark’

June 19, 2013, 3:00 PM HST
* Updated June 21, 6:51 AM
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Contrary to early reports from police, the man bit by a shark in Kona said he never saw his assailant.

James Kerrigan, 28, was swimming Tuesday with his fiancé in about 12 feet of water 100 yards offshore of Mahaiula Beach when the shark grabbed his right leg.

“I never saw the shark,” Kerrigan said in a phone interview from his room at Kona Community Hospital where he is recuperating.

His first thought was that a friend had grabbed him from behind.

However, others saw the 12- to 14-foot tiger shark, including people on the beach as well as the crew of a fire department helicopter arriving to medivac Kerrigan to the hospital.

Kerrigan said he realized he had been attacked after he began feeling the pain and saw blood in the water.

“It latched on and I felt like the head thrashed around a bit, and then it was gone,” was how the former New Jersey resident described the attack.

His next thought?

“Get to shore as quickly as possible,” Kerrigan said.

He said he wasn’t really worried about the shark coming back because he had heard that such incidents usually involve just one bite.

As he reached shallow water he was helped onto the sand by bystanders.

Kerrigan said at the time he didn’t know the extent of his injuries, but a retired paramedic at the beach at Kekaha Kai State Park assured him that he would be all right and would keep his leg.

He sustained numerous lacerations, with the deepest about an inch deep. He wasn’t sure how many stitches he has received, but said it was in the “hundred-plus range.”

Kerrigan, who moved to Kona nine months ago to work for the Transportation Security Administation, said he’s pretty sore today and cannot yet place much weight on the injured leg, but is hopeful that he will be released from the hospital in a day or two.

He’s been told it will take a month or more for a full recovery.

While he acknowledged that in future trips to the ocean the possible presence of sharks will never be far from his mind, he said it won’t stop him from going into the water.

Or at least on it.

“I’m more of a paddle-board kind of guy,” he said.

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