The Irish Mail on Sunday - - ATTACK ON SYRIA - By Lor­raine Kelly

IT WAS a heart-stop­ping mo­ment for the ter­ri­fied school­boy – as he was at­tacked by a huge shark while on hol­i­day in Florida.

But fear­less 12-year-old Shane McCon­nell sur­vived and says the ex­pe­ri­ence has only made him more de­ter­mined than ever to pur­sue his am­bi­tion – of be­com­ing a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist.

Shane was walk­ing along a har­bour­side when he tripped, fell into the water and was grabbed by a bull shark, which clamped its jaws over his feet. Medics say that if he had not been wear­ing shoes, he could have lost both feet and pos­si­bly bled to death.

‘I put my hand over my eyes to block the sun and tripped and fell into the sea,’ he re­called back at his home in Ed­in­burgh. ‘Then I saw a shark’s body rise out of the water. I was splash­ing a lot, and I think it thought I was food be­ing thrown in. I shouted for help but then it dis­ap­peared un­der me. I thought it had missed me.’

But when he pulled him­self up a nearby lad­der, he re­alised he had been bit­ten. He said: ‘Three se­cu­rity men ran to­wards me and lay me down, and then wrapped tow­els around both my feet. I didn’t know what had hap­pened. I wasn’t in pain, I couldn’t feel any­thing. But my legs were shak­ing a lot.’

In shock, he didn’t re­alise how bad his in­juries were. But his shoes were shred­ded, there were deep, bloody bite marks on his feet and his ten­dons were vis­i­ble. De­spite his in­juries, which needed 53 stitches, Shane, a firstyear pupil at sec­ondary school, still wants to ful­fil his am­bi­tion. ‘David At­ten­bor­ough is my idol, and I have watched Blue Planet many times – I watched it again on the plane back last week,’ he says. ‘It was three years ago I re­alised I wanted to be a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist. Even af­ter this, I am hap­pi­est when I’m in the ocean.’

Shane was on hol­i­day in Florida with his mother, Deb­bie, 48, fa­ther Jim, 56, and broth­ers, Kyle, nine, and Jamie, 14, stay­ing at his un­cle’s hol­i­day home in Fort Laud­erdale. Mr McCon­nell, a sup­port worker with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, said: ‘I heard a com­mo­tion and saw some­one on the ground. I recog­nised Shane’s T-shirt and shorts. I saw his feet and the large punc­ture wounds, and saw the blood, and re­alised it was se­ri­ous.’

Ms McCon­nell, a shop worker, ar­rived min­utes later. ‘I started shak­ing and cry­ing,’ she said. ‘I just keep think­ing what could have hap­pened. He could have lost his feet or legs, or been killed.’

sHarp sHocK: A photo, left, taken in hos­pi­tal show­ing Shane’s wounds af­ter his ter­ri­fy­ing en­counter with a bull shark, far left. Right: Back at home with his wounds heal­ing

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