Saturday, November 01, 2003

Surfers heed word
to stay out of water
after attack

LIHUE >> Just after a shark bit an arm off of 13-year-old surfing star Bethany Hamilton, "NO SWIMMING" signs were posted at Haena County Beach Park.

But a group of surfers watching the waves break from shore yesterday morning did not need the signs to keep them out of the water.

"I don't think I'll ever go back in the water," said one.

"I know I won't," said a companion.

Only an hour before, they watched fellow surfers pull Bethany to shore, her left arm bitten off at the shoulder by a shark in a single lunge so sudden that no one actually saw the shark.

The bleeding was stopped with a tourniquet made from either a surfboard lanyard or a rash guard jersey, according to differing reports from witnesses.

Doctors said Bethany lost a third to half of the blood in her body, said her brother, Noah.

Noah said Bethany was surfing with her best friend, Alana Blanchard, as well as Alana's father, Holt, and brother, Byron.

Byron Blanchard and his father brought Bethany to shore. She was conscious the entire way in but blacked out on sand, Noah Hamilton said. It took about a half-hour to bring her in to shore, then about another half-hour or so for an ambulance to get to the remote location, he added.

As of late yesterday, Bethany was reported in stable condition at Wilcox Memorial Hospital. Hospital officials said there appears to be no need to move her to an Oahu hospital, and she is expected to recover.

"We're doing good, just praying, keeping up our spirits and hoping for the best. We're trying not to be angry, vengeful, just have faith that God will take care of us," said Noah Hamilton.

Cyndi Ozaki, Kauai County spokeswoman, said lifeguards from Hanalei were out on personal watercraft warning people about the shark. County officials have closed the area between Kee and Wainiha beaches until at least this morning.

Bob Scotland, a surfer who was among those hanging out around the lifeguard station, said Beth, as she is called on the beach, is well liked.

"She's a champion. She's the best of the best," said Scotland.

"You watch her surf, and she's so good you can't believe how young she is. A true prodigy," he said.

She is "absolutely fearless" and has a playful sense of humor, he added.

"Before the attack she was having a great time, really having fun," Scotland said. "She was claiming every wave -- 'Mine! Mine!' -- and making noises like a dolphin, a really happy kid."

The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin freelance reporter Brandon Lee contributed to this story.


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