CALIFORNIA– Adam Coons was almost done surfing for the day. He wanted to catch just one more wave, he said in an interview Tuesday. That decision could’ve cost him his life.
The 37-year-old, whose rescue by a US Coast Guard helicopter was caught on video Saturday, was surfing near California’s Santa Rosa Island, about 26 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, when a shark chomped down on his right leg.
“I didn’t feel the bite from the adrenaline, and then I was immediately underwater getting thrashed,” Coons told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” holding a plush toy shark his friends brought him in the hospital.
His friend, Jeremy Howard, saw the attack unfold from a nearby boat.
“It took him out of the water probably about, I’d say, 5 feet,” Howard told the show. “I just said, ‘C’mon buddy, you can make it. You can make it,’ and just kind of cheered him back to the boat.”
A former lifeguard, Howard got Coons back aboard the boat, tied a tourniquet around his friend’s upper right leg and called the Coast Guard.
Santa Rosa Island is remote, especially the island’s north side where Coons was surfing, so Howard’s quick reaction likely saved Coons’ life, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney told CNN.
“This could have gone in a different direction, but thankfully the good Samaritan was out there,” he said. “They applied the tourniquet, which is crucial. You have to get a grip on the blood flow, and that good Samaritan had their head in the right place and did everything properly.”
The Coast Guard sent a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to rescue the injured surfer. Coast Guard video shows a wetsuit-clad Coons being hoisted from a boat with a white tourniquet around his right thigh.
During the interview, Coons showed his interviewer the wetsuit, which bears the scars of the attack: four or five sizable toothmarks that ripped through the neoprene.
Coons was transported to Santa Barbara Airport where emergency medical technicians treated him, the Coast Guard said. He was then taken to a local hospital.
“This individual was fortunate to be with a buddy who was able to communicate their position to the Coast Guard,” Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Benjamin McIntyre-Coble said. “We are all happy that he will be able to be with his family in time for the holidays.”
Coons expressed deep gratitude to his Coast Guard rescuers: “Without them I wouldn’t be here. I just want to thank those guys from the bottom of my heart.”
But if you think the attack will spook Coons out of the water, think again. He fully intends to continue surfing, he told the morning show.
Authorities have not said what type of shark bit Coons, but Howard said he believed it was a white shark.
According to the International Shark Attack File, white sharks have made up 97% of shark attacks in California. Leopard, mako and blue sharks have also attacked humans in California.
There was only one confirmed unprovoked shark attack last year in California, ISAF reported. Of the reported shark attacks from 2018, 53% of the victims were doing board sports.