A Miami-Dade man is recovering in the Jackson South Medical Center after suffering shark bites while spearfishing in the Florida Keys on the afternoon of Thursday, May 18. Twenty-year-old Kevin Blanco was free-diving off the coast of Marathon, Florida when the 9- to 10-foot bull shark, weighing an estimated 500 pounds, latched onto his thigh. He survived the attack thanks to critical rescue efforts and first aid administered by his friends and fellow anglers.
Blanco and his friends were spearfishing about two miles offshore when the shark approached. “I’ve been in that same situation a lot of times, and they are usually afraid of us,” he told WSVN-TV from his hospital bed. “That one was not afraid of us. He wanted me. It was a scary event.”
The shark bit Blanco twice, opening deep gashes in his thigh. His friend, Danny Maduro, who was fishing nearby, grabbed Blanco by the armpits and helped him swim to the surface and then to the boat. They immediately removed Blanco’s weighted belt and used it as a tourniquet, tying it tightly around the wounds, which were bleeding profusely.
“I saw the shark open its mouth and bite down into his leg. And for a half second, I was in major shock, staring at him. And then I went into survival mode to help my friend,” Maduro told NBC 6 South Florida the following day. “I noticed he let out all his air, and he screamed. My first instinct was to drop everything I had and to help him get to the surface without blacking out.”
They called 911 and drove their boat to the shore, where Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputies and Marathon Fire Rescue personnel treated Blanco. The rescue team then ushered Blanco to the Seven Mile Bridge, where the transport helicopter could safely land.
— Florida Keys Sheriff (@mcsonews) May 18, 2023
The big bull shark was cruising at 20 to 30 miles per hour when it slammed into his leg, Blanco recounted in an interview with WPLG Local 10, adding that it felt like he “got hit by an F-150.” Luckily, the shark didn’t sever any major arteries or blood vessels, doctors said. Blanco is expected to make a full recovery and should be released from the hospital later this week.
Another Florida Keys fisherman was bitten by a shark less than 36 hours after the attack on Blanco. In that case, a 35-year-old fisherman caught a shark while fishing off a dock in Summerland Key. Once landed, the shark bit the man on the foot. That victim was also flown by trauma helicopter to a hospital in Miami.
According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, Florida leads the world in shark bites. In 2022, 16 people were bitten by sharks in Florida, representing 28 percent of all shark bites worldwide and 40 percent of the U.S. total.