A group of friends were fishing off the Coast of Anna Maria Island when one of them was bitten in the leg.
21-year-old Wickersham was bobbing in the water near the boat, when a nine-foot-long, 500-pound bull shark bit down on his leg. From the boat, Bystrom saw his pal flailing in the water, getting pulled under for a few seconds, then a pool of blood begin spreading out across the water.
Connor Bystrom and Max Gazzo were spearfishing with Wickersham when he was bitten.
“All of a sudden, he just got nailed from beneath and started screaming that he got bit by a shark,” Bystrom recounted the day after his friend was attacked. “I didn’t see the shark. I saw the commotion. I obviously heard him — saw the fear and just knew it was not good.”
There was no time to think about, ‘Oh man, there’s a shark in there that’s looking to bite you,’ “ Bystrom told reporters Thursday. “It was just, ‘No, he got bit — get in the water, get him back, stop the bleeding and get him in.’”
Wickersham’s wound was severe, even life-threatening. As Bystrom pulled him onto the boat with the help of their other friends, Bystorm saw through a grotesque open wound, which exposed bone and severed arteries.
“The whole back of the boat (was) all just blood,” Kiera Dunn, a group member who called 911, said. Added friend Oceanna Beard, “I thought for sure he wasn’t going to make it.”
While friends used anchor rope to fashion a tourniquet around Wickersham’s leg, pal Max Gazzo drove the boat back to shore, “just hauling butt,” as Bystrom told The Ann Maria Islander newspaper. They made it to awaiting paramedics in five minutes, and Wickersham was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where luck seemed to be smiling down upon him.
The shark bite sustained by C.J. Wickersham required over 200 stitches.
Even though his 12-inch by 12-inch wound caused him to lose half of his blood, the attending physician had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan, and had the know-how needed to not only save Wickersham’s life, but his leg as well.
Dr. Bob Heuter, director of Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory Center for Shark Research, said Wickersham can thank his lucky stars he’s still alive.
“Quite often when you have a bite (like this), the shark gets the femoral artery, and the people bleed out before they can get medical help,” said Heuter. “So this guy was really, really lucky.”
Wickersham believes he was just as lucky to have lifelong pal Bystrom and a group of quick-thinkers at his side.
“My friends saved my life,” he said.
In Other Florida News
Black Comedian and Actor Chris Tucker is facing foreclosure on his Florida mansion after the bank filed papers alleging he owes more than $4.4 million on the home he purchased for $6 million in 2007.
It’s rumored he wasted millions on Ringtones, watermelon flavored thunderbird beverages, and crack.
The IRS imposed an $11.5 million lien on the home in 2010 in an effort to collect federal taxes from Tucker, and the court documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel showed that his mortgage payment on the mansion was $25,812.50 a month. Tucker’s home is now assessed at a paltry $1.6 million because of Minority devaluation in the Neighborhood.
According to the Times Union, Tucker’s scheduled comedy show on October 16 in New York has been canceled because of “unforeseen circumstances.”