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