California swimmer survives attack by great white shark

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PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. (KRON) — A swimmer enjoying the water off Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, California, this week suffered injuries to his leg, stomach and arm after being attacked by a great white shark.

Steve Bruemmer, 62, of Monterey, made it out of the water alive thanks to a surf instructor, Heath Braddock, and two standup paddleboarders, Paul Bandy and Amy Johns, who launched into action.

Bandy is a Sacramento police officer and Johns is a nurse. Braddock is a respected surfer who often surfs powerful waves in Moss Landing. On Wednesday, he used all of his paddling strength to save the swimmer’s life.

He was at Lovers Point Beach at just the right moment as he was leading an ocean excursion for a group of children visiting from Kansas.

“They had never been in the ocean before. We were chest-deep getting comfortable with the ocean, embracing the nature of the ocean,” he told Nexstar’s KRON on Friday.

When the great white shark attacked Bruemmer, the Kansas children “got the full immersion, that’s for sure,” Braddock said. “They saw it all.”

While the children stood on shore, Braddock grabbed two surfboards and paddled both boards out to the screaming swimmer.

“He was 300 feet out. A lot of tourists cry wolf and cry out ‘shark!’ It’s rarely the case. It’s usually a dolphin. But this guy continued to scream frantically. I saw the pool of blood around him so I knew it was real,” Braddock said.

“The standup paddle boarders got there 10 seconds before I did. I told them of a plan I had. I asked Paul to help me put the victim on my biggest board. I pulled on his good arm and they lifted the other arm that had been bitten. His leg wound was the most pronounced, his bone was fully showing. Most of the damage was on his stomach, the front side,” Braddock said.

With the injured Bruemmer holding onto the surfer’s ankle, “I paddled as hard as I could,” Braddock said.

The swimmer made it back on the beach just as paramedics and police officers arrived. Paramedics applied tourniquets to prevent even more blood loss. Pacific Grove Police Chief Cathy Madalone wrote, “We want to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Good Samaritans that took immediate action and personal risk to assist the swimmer.”

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s forensics lab confirmed that the shark was a great white.

The shark bite marks on his body were so big, Bruemmer said he was told the great white could have been as large as 20 feet. Great white sharks can grow up to 20 feet long, according to the Smithsonian Institute, but most females are between 15 and 16 feet, while male great whites are 11 to 13 feet on average.

Braddock said the swimmer was still recovering in a hospital on Friday. “Steve is more stable today. His wife said he’s in decent spirits,” the surfer said.

“It was a very large shark. He’s going to survive, but it’s going to be a long recovery,” a fellow swimmer told KRON.

Bruemmer’s friends said he is an avid swimmer who usually doesn’t swim on Wednesdays. But warm, sunny weather made him decide to go for a swim. He is part of a local swim club, the Kelp Krawlers.

Braddock has surfed in the Monterey Bay for decades and he knows of three other surfers who survived great white shark attacks off the coasts of Big Sur, Davenport, and Marina. One of the surfers was nicknamed “Shark Bait” after he was attacked near the Point Sur Lighthouse. “He still surfs today,” Braddock noted.

“All these guys were on surfboards, so they only got teeth on their back. But the swimmer got it on both sides because he didn’t have anything protecting him,” Braddock said.

Great white shark attacks against people are rare, but from past attacks, local marine biologists know that great whites usually strike once before swimming away. That’s because the apex ocean predator prefers to eat blubbery sea lions and harbor seals, not people.

Emergency officials posted shark warning signs along Pacific Grove beaches following Wednesday’s attack and closed off the beaches. Police have been monitoring the water using an aerial drone, but so far, the shark has not been spotted again.

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