A young Floridian went head-to-head with what she thinks was a bull shark last Thursday, May 11 in waters off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida. The attack resulted in multiple bite wounds to 13-year-old Ella Reed’s leg, arm, torso, and finger. But she somehow managed to beat the shark back and emerge from the ocean with enough stamina to FaceTime her family.
“I remember just breathing really heavily, and then when it latched on to my stomach, not being able to breathe at all because I was just like, ‘What the heck is happening?’” Reed said in a Monday morning interview with TODAY. “It bit me in the stomach first. And right as it bit me in the stomach, I shoved my arm where it was biting me so it didn’t get my stomach and it got my arm instead. Then I hit it with my other hand, like hit its nose or its face.”
According to TODAY, the shark circled back again. Reed yelled out a warning to her friend who was swimming up ahead of her then fought the shark off a second time. After enduring a second round of bites, she made it to the beach and grabbed her phone.
Her mother, Devin Reed, was listening in as Ella described the attack to her brother in detail. “At first I thought she was joking actually, and then she says, ‘I’m not joking!’ And she took the camera and she panned it on her body, and I kind of just froze and freaked out,” Devin Reed told TODAY anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “Her first thing was to tell her friend to run, not ask for help. She was saving her friend.”
Reed made it home from the beach on a golf cart—her family lives across the street from the state park where the attack occurred—then her mother drove her to a nearby fire station. Later that day, emergency room doctors treated the shark bites on her torso and leg with a total of 19 stitches.
Reed’s family members said they often see sharks while fishing above a nearby reef, but none of them have had an up-close encounter on the beach before now. According to the International Shark Attack Files, bull sharks are large and stout and can inhabit both fresh and salt water. In 1916, the species was blamed for a series of attacks that later served as the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s book Jaws and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film of the same name. As for Ella, she’s not letting the incident stifle her passion for the ocean. She has dreams of becoming a marine biologist and plans to to be back on the beach as soon as possible.