A Florida teen who was bitten by a shark off Amelia Island near Jacksonville describes being 'so scared'.
SARASOTA — Squeezing her left foot like a steel trap, a shark’s crushing jaws tore into a Sarasota teenager’s heel as she stood in the shallow surf on Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville late last week.
Jackie Jozaitis, 16, said she and her best friend woke early Friday, just before sunrise to boogie board as part of her friend’s birthday weekend. The friends were riding waves when Jozaitis prepared for the “perfect” roller.
Suddenly, she felt the sharp pain from an unseen shark as it bit her ankle in the thigh-deep water.
“I was so scared,” Jackie said. “I was freaking out on the inside, but on the outside I tried to stay calm. I knew if I was calm that everyone else would be calm, too.”
The shark let her go almost immediately and Jackie ran to her friend on shore for help — a girl who was trained in first aid — and a yoga coach who was nearby. They used a towel to stop the bleeding and called 911.
According to Jackie, it took about 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and take her to the hospital, where she received eight stitches.
READ MORE: University of Florida identifies shark species in 24-year-old Florida beach bite
Now, the three-year member of the Sarasota High School’s marching band is bed-ridden and needs a wheelchair or crutches to get around. She was fortunate the gruesome bite missed her Achilles tendon.
Jackie won’t be able to attend band camp, which begins this week. However, the teenager has kept a positive attitude since the day she was bitten.
“Everybody has to eat, just not me,” Jackie said of the rare shark attack.
Jackie’s mother, Robin, was in Sarasota when she received multiple text messages about her daughter’s plight.
“When I first received many, many text messages and phone calls and everyone trying to alert me that this happened, I thought, ‘no way — what are the odds of this happening?‘” Robin Jozaitis said. “I thought it was a joke. When I saw the pictures I thought ‘Wow, they’re showing me part of her foot I shouldn’t be able to see.’”
She is grateful for good friends and the first responders who took care of her daughter.
The Nassau County Sheriff stopped by the hospital to give Jackie a stuffed shark, and friends have dropped off a T-shirt from the 1975 thriller “Jaws,” as well as Swedish fish candy, a shark floatie and a boogie board that says, “Nice to eat you!”
If all goes well, and there is no infection, she should be back on her feet in about five weeks, according to her mother. She suffered a jagged and deep laceration, but she did not have any broken bones.
Jackie said the pain is about an eight out of 10.
RELATED: Great white shark Katharine is back in Florida, why it’s no surprise
“It’s nothing like I’ve ever felt before,” she said. “I’ve broken my thumb, I’ve hit my elbows and stuff; it’s a deeper pain. It’s really shocking.”
The International Shark Attack File, a scientifically documented database housed at the Florida Museum since 1958, reports that there were 32 shark attacks in the U.S. in 2018. Sixteen were documented in Florida.
A global summary — 130 attacks worldwide —shows that 53% of those bitten were surfing or participating in waterboard sports when they were attacked, 30% were swimming or wading and 6% were snorkeling or free-diving.
Sixty-six were unprovoked attacks.
This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.