Shark Attacks Puerto Rico Tourist on Nighttime Swim at Bioluminescent Bay

 @MarkJohansonIBT on August 18 2011 5:12 PM

Officials in Puerto Rico say a shark attacked a U.S. visitor on Tuesday at the popular tourist destination, the bioluminescent bay.

Dr. Ernesto Torres says that the woman, identified as 27-year-old Lydia Strunk from Iowa, faces several months of physical therapy and will remain in the hospital for many days. The bite was around 10-inches-long and runs from below her knee to the ankle.

Torres added Thursday that a marine biologist confirmed the bite was from a roughly six-foot shark, though the identity of the shark remains a mystery because no teeth were recovered.

Tiger, Nurse, and Reef sharks are the most common species in the area.

Dr Pablo Rodriguez, trauma director at the Rio Piedras Medical Center said:

It was like [the shark] tried to tear away. She has an imprint of all the shark's teeth.

Strunk is expected to make a full recovery, though she will likely have some nerve damage and limited movement of her right foot. Doctors repaired four tendons used for flexing the foot, and it could take up to five months for Strunk's damaged nerves to grow back.

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Strunk was swimming at Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques, just east of the Puerto Rican mainland. The bay attracts thousands of visitors to its bioluminescent waters that light up when disturbed.

She was part of a 16-person group kayaking late on Tuesday night. Her and four others jumped into the glowing water when one of the group members felt something hit their leg. According to reports, seconds later, Strunk felt a bite.

The murky waters of the area, officially known as Mosquito Bay, act as a nursery for many fish species, including sharks, according to Francisco Pagan, a marine biologist at the University of Puerto Rico. He added that it was likely that the shark was a juvenile and mistook Strunk's leg for a different food source.

Strunk's parents are expected to arrive in the U.S. territory Thursday afternoon, doctors said.

According to statistics kept at the Florida Museum of Natural History, only seven shark attacks have ever been recorded in Puerto Rico, two of them fatal. The last death occurred in 1924.

 

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