Trailing bloody water over the gunwale as he slid into the boat, trying to keep his shredded arm elevated, spearfisher Mario Avila didn’t know he had been rescued by the perfect passengers.
His rescuers appeared momentarily unsure what to do as he lay on the deck talking to them in Spanish as he held up his left hand, covered in blood from a shark bite, at one point asking “hablas español?”
Luckily for Avilo, the group might have known little Spanish but they knew medicine: The charter boat—which had been flagged down by his companions—happened to have a party of nurses on board.
One makeshift tourniquet and 20 minutes later, he was being taken to a nearby hospital.
The 37-year-old later told CBS that a 20-foot bull shark had grabbed him by the arm while he was spearfishing with scuba on Aug. 3 near Miami, Florida, off Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
REBORN AFTER SHARK SCARE – Mario Avila, 37, said he was attacked by a shark on Saturday morning, while scuba diving.
“I was diving and immediately, the shark came and attacked me. I never saw it, it came by surprise and attacked me,” Avila told the news outlet in Spanish.
He said that when he tried to push it away, the shark “tore up all my fingers and my chest.”
“I’ve been fishing underwater for 20 years, and all my life, I’ve never seen one that big,” Avila said.
Fortunately, a party of nurses on vacation was nearby on a boat run by Hot Shot Charters.
The company shared a dramatic video showing Avila slide over the side of the boat.
The graphic video is posted below—viewer discretion is advised.
The 30-second clip shows one person interacting with Avilo, as the party on the boat and Avilo calmly try to establish what to do.
According to ABC News, the nurses quickly applied a tourniquet to his arm.
“He was wearing a wet suit, but he had bite marks in about three different places,” pediatric nurse Christine Haines told the news outlet. “He had muscle and skin hanging off. The teeth marks were in his hand and skin was hanging off.”
“Everyone remained extremely calm. It was a team effort,” Haines said. “We commented afterward, ‘Wow, everybody was very calm.’ Even the guy that was bit—he was extremely calm, which really helped him and the situation.”
Charter boat worker Capt. Sig Ozols suggested the hand of fate had pushed them to the right place at the right time.
“We were there for a reason, and we made it happen,” he told WPLG.
The news outlet reported that it took the charter boat about 20 minutes to ferry Avilo to Key Biscayne, where Miami-Dade Fire Rescue paramedics were waiting to take him to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.
The fire rescue team confirmed that the paramedic who treated him believed he had a “possible shark bite.”
On Instagram, the video posted by Hot Shot Charters that showed the moment Avilo landed in their boat stirred up much discussion. Some criticized the occupants of the boat for acting too slowly and failing to put pressure on the wound from the get-go, others said that the wet suit should have been cut off.
“Should have been trying to stop blood from bleeding out instead of one guy just standing there and someone recording,” said one typical criticism.
Others, however, defended what was seen in the video.
“You never cut off a wet suit in the field,” wrote one poster in response to the criticisms. “It’s literally applying pressure to the entire body and affected area. Unless you know what you’re doing never cut off a wet suit. Direct pressure and a tourniquet.”
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As many pointed out, the video, however, only shows the moments that Avilo first slides over the gunwale into the boat, and does not show the subsequent treatment given by the nurses and described in the media reports.
According to CBS, Avila says he is lucky to be alive. But he isn’t in a hurry to get back in the water.
“Scuba diving I don’t think I’ll ever do again, but I’ll keep fishing with a rod.”