Tecumseh resident assists in life-saving after woman is bitten in shark attack
Tecumseh business owners David and Cyndi Daniels were at the end of a vacation visiting family in Vero Beach and had just enjoyed a special overnight at the landmark Driftwood Resort. The last thing they expected at 11:30 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, May 9 was for their tranquil view of the beach to turn disastrous.
While David and Cyndi were drinking coffee on the balcony of their room, David noticed a woman swimming 30 or 40 yards out in the ocean. He didn’t pay much attention to her, beyond recognizing she was swimming about as far out as he had been days before. Cyndi suddenly heard a scream and as they looked out at the woman, they noticed she was surrounded by blood in the water.
“We were sitting up high enough over the swells to hear her,” David said. He believes the sound of her screams would not have carried far because of the noise of the 4-foot ocean swells.
David immediately jumped down and headed for the water while Cyndi called 911. As he ran towards the woman, David kept hollering for help. Although he had taken life-saving courses, David is not professionally trained. He believes he responded instinctively because he is comfortable in the water and regularly participates in water activities like scuba diving and sailing.
“As I got to the woman, there was another person just behind me,” David
remembered. It was lifeguard Erik Toomsoo, who also heard the cries for help.
The two men brought the woman in to shore. David assumed the shark had just bitten the woman, but when he looked down there was a huge chunk of flesh missing from her leg and her femoral artery was spurting blood.
From that point until they got her to shore, David told the woman just to lay back and let them get her to shore. “I reached up and clamped up the artery,” he said.
He locked eyes with Toomsoo, concerned that the amount of blood in the water would draw the shark back or attract other sharks in the area. Luckily for the three, no other sharks arrived on the scene.
“It was a typical scene from ‘Jaws,’ the only difference was the shark didn’t come back,” said David. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like that.”
Onshore after the woman saw the damage to her leg, she went into shock. David continued his grip above the wound, using his hand as a tourniquet until emergency personnel arrived, while other lifeguards applied pressure with towels.
“When the medical people arrived I got out of their way,” he said. “I could barely breathe. The emotions were welling up inside of me.”
Coincidentally, a rescue helicopter happened to be flying over the scene, and saw the blood trail in the ocean and the movement of people on the beach. The pilot landed in a nearby parking lot, and the in-flight crew got to the victim and the emergency personnel very quickly and transported her to Fort Pierce’s Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute.
After the incident, David found out the woman was Karin Stei, 47, a German journalist visiting a friend. On Sunday, May 13, Stei had stabilized enough to be flown back to Germany escorted by a German doctor, according to the hospital spokesperson, Nicole Baxter-Miller.
With his enjoyment of scuba diving and sailing, David has spent many pleasant hours in the ocean. He is always careful of shark activity, knowing that clear water is the best protection against being attacked.
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, a shark’s diet includes schools of fish, and human movement in the water often mimics the swimming of a school of fish. After the shark bites a human it realizes its mistake and moves on.
For several nights after the attack, David woke up in the middle of the night remembering the events of that morning. He has since come to terms with the experience, although David questions whether he will ever swim again in the ocean.
“It’s not her fault,” David said of Stei’s tragedy. “She was lucky in all aspects except for the shark.”