Sharks are not an uncommon sight in the waters off the Manhattan Beach Pier, but attacks like the one Saturday are rare, experts said.
A swimmer was attacked by a shark Saturday morning. The unidentified victim, described as a long-distance swimmer between 35 and 40 years of age, suffered a single bite wound on the right side of his rib cage. He was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and was described as stable.
Witnesses told authorities that the shark bit the anchovies-and-sardines bait on the hook a fisherman had thrown into the water from the edge of the pier. They said the shark was hooked for about 45 minutes and was thrashing around in the water when he bit the swimmer about 9:30 a.m.
“He was trying to get off the line,” said Capt. Tracy Lizotte, a Los Angeles County lifeguard at the beach. “He was agitated and was probably biting everything in his way and then the swimmer swam right into the shark's line.”
Lizotte said it's not uncommon for sharks to swim in waters past the pier's edge.
“That's where they live,” Lizotte said. “It's their home.”
He stressed that sharks usually avoid people and said this case was unique because the animal had become agitated.
“This was an accident,” Lizotte said.
Witness Aram Ozen was also surfing near the end of the pier when the attack occurred.
At first, Ozen said, people thought the victim was having trouble swimming. Then Ozen suddenly heard a couple of people screaming, “White, white!” referring to a great white shark.
“It was a scary scream,” Ozen said. “It was kind of freaky. There was a lot of people screaming back to shore.”
Ozen said other surfers started paddling out to help the victim back to shore as officials cleared everyone out of the water.
“I saw blood on his right rib,” he said. “He was a little bit in shock.”
A girl in an American flag bikini gasped and her friend made the sound from the "Jaws" theme. Nearby, a woman in a lifeguard jacket walked up to a boy in green swim trunks who had waded five feet into the water.
“Hey!” she shouted, over the sound of crashing waves. “You really can't be in there.”
For most of the day, lifeguards kept people off the pier and out of the water along a two-mile stretch of beach as authorities coaxed the shark into deeper waters.