Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Swimmer luckily
not to shark’s liking

John Marrack is safe after
a close call off the Waianae coast

John Marrack's early birthday present may have come from the shark that let him go yesterday.

Marrack, who turns 61 today, said he was swimming with a pod of dolphins about 50 yards offshore Makua Beach on the Waianae coast when he felt something "grab" his right foot. Just before that happened, he noticed that the dolphins around him "took off like bullets."

"It happened almost instantaneously," said Marrack.

"They (the dolphins) just took off ... then something grabbed my foot and then it immediately let go."

Marrack, of Manoa, said there were about 10 to 12 people in the water with him that had swum out from shore to play with the dolphins. After he was bitten he said he looked around to see what it was.

"I saw this huge body, huge silver body, at least 4- or 5-feet wide," he said. "But I couldn't see how long it was ... it was below me."

Luckily for Marrack, nearby was a Dolphin Excursions tour boat, which, as the name implies, takes customers out into the ocean to see dolphins. Coincidentally, the owner and operator of Dolphin Excursions said he had just been telling his customers about how dolphins will flee if a shark is nearby, when Marrack was attacked.

"It was about 8:15 in the morning and there were maybe 40 dolphins in the water when they just took off," said Victor Lozano of Dolphin Excursions. "Then I heard this guy say 'I've been bit!' "

"He started swimming sideways to the boat and you could see the blood just trailing from his foot ... we had to help him onboard."

Lozano said he is "100 percent sure" that Marrack's wound was a shark bite. Besides the injury itself, which Lozano described as "mostly puncture wounds," Lozano said the conditions were right.

"It's getting close to July and August, when white-bellied dolphins start calving," he said. "And when they're born, they're extremely vulnerable and the sharks know it's an easy food source."

"It's a myth that dolphins will fight off a shark ... they took off and after that he (Marrack) was the slowest thing in the water."

After administering first aid, Lozano brought Marrack to shore, where Marrack's wife and a friend took him to Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. He was treated and released after three hours. Without X-rays Marrack said he can't be sure, but the worst of his injuries appears to be a chipped bone in his ankle.

"It started to throb on the ride home ... that's when the pain kicked in."

Despite the pain, and the fact that he might not be able to compete in any tennis matches soon (he is widely known on the local tennis circuit), Marrack said he feels "very fortunate that it wasn't worse."

"I think I tasted lousy, that's why he let me go," laughed Marrack. "Who knows? ... I'm just happy to be able to see my birthday."



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