"I felt something shaking my leg, and I thought it was my friend trying to tip me over."
Recalling her shark attack off south Maui on Monday
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nicolette Raleigh, 15, spoke yesterday about surviving a shark attack in south Maui that left her right leg shredded. With her were boyfriend Shane Wilds and friend Jessy Larson, below, both of whom helped her after the Monday incident.
A shark tale
A 15-year-old girl describes the attack off a south Maui beach
WAILUKU » Nicolette Raleigh said she and her friends joked about being attacked by a shark just 15 minutes before a shark bit her on the calf in south Maui.
They talked about the discovery of the shark-bitten body of a man in the same area days earlier, but she never thought it would happen to her, Raleigh said.
"I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it," said Raleigh, seated in a wheelchair during an interview with the news media yesterday morning in the lobby of Maui Memorial Medical Center.
"I knew something was wrong. I just grabbed her and pulled her onto the beach."
About the shark attack on pal Nicolette Raleigh
State and county officials shut down Big Beach, the site of the attack, and surrounding areas near Makena State Park following the attack about 4:39 p.m. Monday.
Officials reopened the park at noon yesterday, after sighting no sharks.
State and federal officials said based on the description of the attack at Big Beach, they believe the shark that attacked Raleigh was smaller than the one that bit San Jose resident Anthony Moore.
The body of Moore, who went free diving Thursday afternoon, was found Friday morning in a snorkeling area known as "Five Graves" near the Makena Landing, about three miles north of Big Beach.
Maui police said so far an autopsy has been unable to conclusively prove that Moore was killed by a shark and that it's possible he might have been dead before he was attacked by it.
Raleigh, 15 and a freshman at Kihei Charter High School, said she and her friend Jessy Larson had gone to the beach to celebrate the birthday of Raleigh's 17-year-old boyfriend, Shane Wilds, after buying him a gift -- board shorts.
She said as they were in about 1 to 2 feet of water something knocked Shane down.
"The same thing came over to me, and I felt something shaking my leg, and I thought it was my friend trying to tip me over."
Raleigh said she then saw the shark shaking its head back and forth.
"I just started to scream," she said. "I was way too scared."
Raleigh said she kicked the shark with her left foot and ran out of the water with help from Larson.
Larson, 15, said he heard her scream.
"I knew something was wrong," Larson said. "I just grabbed her and pulled her onto the beach."
Wilds carried her to a table.
"When I got out, I looked at my leg. It was very ugly," she said.
The encounter left an 8-inch-long wound that was deep, she said.
She said the shark was gray with a round head and about 8 feet long, but she wasn't able to tell what kind it was. Nearly all attacks in Hawaii waters involve tiger sharks.
Raleigh, who moved from New Jersey a little more than a year ago, said she had been to Makena State Park before and had never seen a shark there.
Raleigh said doctors estimate she'll take about eight months to fully recover.
She said she feels fortunate to have survived the attack and that there were people nearby to help her, including a physician, two nurses and a couple of firefighters.
She said she only lost about a half of a cup of blood.
"I just feel I'm really lucky," she said. "I really didn't think I was going to survive this because there was so much pain."
Raleigh, who has been on medication to ease the pain, said she had surgery Monday night and expected to undergo more surgery today to see if they can repair a severed nerve. She expects to be able to leave the hospital by Friday.
Her mother, Cathy Johnson, said that when she first heard about the shark attack through a cell phone call from Shane, she thought he was kidding and couldn't believe that something would happen to her daughter.
"I just think things like this shouldn't happen to good people," she said.
Raleigh said she wants to attend a culinary school in Philadelphia and become a chef.
She said she thinks she'll return to the ocean in time. "But I'll be really careful," she said.