Man shares story of survival after being bitten by Caribbean reef sharks in Bahamas

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

April 26 was supposed to be a typical work day for Marlin Wakeman. But that was the day that changed his life forever. “Me and my buddies were talking about like, ‘Man if you fell in here, like, you are done,'” Marlin Wakeman, who was born and raised in Stuart, Florida, told reporters on Thursday. And that’s exactly what happened to him in the Bahamas. He was walking on the dock at the Flying Fish Marina on Long Island as he was working on a boat. He tried stepping onboard but missed and fell into the water. “I was pulling myself back in, and he grabbed my leg, the first shark did — and pulled me underwater. Kind of scrambled for a second,” Wakeman said. More than a dozen Caribbean reef sharks were swimming by the marina. Wakeman ended up getting bitten multiple times by these 7-foot apex predators. “Luckily my captain was nearby and got some help pretty quick and was able to get stitched up,” Wakeman said. These sharks typically stay in that area, as people toss leftover carcasses when they’re done fishing. For Wakeman and those working on boats in the area, it has become a major safety concern. “Bleeding a lot that point and adrenaline started wearing off a little bit,” Wakeman said. “That was the first time I’ve ever passed out strictly from pain, so yeah, it hurt really, really bad.”He has two puncture wounds in his kneecap, along with several other injuries. Medical crews in the Bahamas helped with some damage control by using a tourniquet and stitching his wounds. Wakeman’s parents remember the call they got that afternoon. “Can’t really describe it. You just kind of– you go in shock mode. But I felt like a million little pieces all of a sudden, and then you had to get it together,” Melynda Wakeman, his mother, said. They flew him out the next day and immediately took him to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. “There was a puncture wound to the capsule of the joints surface itself. … There was a puncture in the back of the knee cap,” Dr. Rami Elkhechen, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said. Medical experts quickly helped clean all of Wakeman’s wounds and stitched him up properly.”The soft tissue that I repaired, the stitches are out. There were a lot of stitches. The wounds are healing nicely,” Dr. Robert Borrego, trauma medical director at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said. He said Wakeman is the third shark bite survivor the medical center has treated so far this year. “The fact that there are 20 sharks in there, and you were able to get out of there and still have a leg? It’s amazing. And I think it also goes to say how quickly he reacted and that he didn’t panic,” Borrego said. The Wakemans thank the crews in the Bahamas and St. Mary’s Medical Center for saving their son’s life. “It’s not often that a shark attack victim gets treated by a shark attack doctor. So, we were very fortunate there, and I will be forever grateful,” Rufus Wakeman, his father and captain, said. Sister station WPBF asked Wakeman if he ever plans on getting back on a boat soon. “Oh yeah, as soon as I can, for sure,” he said, laughing.

April 26 was supposed to be a typical work day for Marlin Wakeman. But that was the day that changed his life forever.

“Me and my buddies were talking about like, ‘Man if you fell in here, like, you are done,'” Marlin Wakeman, who was born and raised in Stuart, Florida, told reporters on Thursday.

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And that’s exactly what happened to him in the Bahamas.

He was walking on the dock at the Flying Fish Marina on Long Island as he was working on a boat. He tried stepping onboard but missed and fell into the water.

“I was pulling myself back in, and he grabbed my leg, the first shark did — and pulled me underwater. Kind of scrambled for a second,” Wakeman said.

More than a dozen Caribbean reef sharks were swimming by the marina. Wakeman ended up getting bitten multiple times by these 7-foot apex predators.

“Luckily my captain was nearby and got some help pretty quick and was able to get stitched up,” Wakeman said.

These sharks typically stay in that area, as people toss leftover carcasses when they’re done fishing. For Wakeman and those working on boats in the area, it has become a major safety concern.

“Bleeding a lot that point and adrenaline started wearing off a little bit,” Wakeman said. “That was the first time I’ve ever passed out strictly from pain, so yeah, it hurt really, really bad.”

He has two puncture wounds in his kneecap, along with several other injuries. Medical crews in the Bahamas helped with some damage control by using a tourniquet and stitching his wounds.

Wakeman’s parents remember the call they got that afternoon.

“Can’t really describe it. You just kind of– you go in shock mode. But I felt like a million little pieces all of a sudden, and then you had to get it together,” Melynda Wakeman, his mother, said.

They flew him out the next day and immediately took him to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

“There was a puncture wound to the capsule of the joints surface itself. … There was a puncture in the back of the knee cap,” Dr. Rami Elkhechen, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said.

Medical experts quickly helped clean all of Wakeman’s wounds and stitched him up properly.

“The soft tissue that I repaired, the stitches are out. There were a lot of stitches. The wounds are healing nicely,” Dr. Robert Borrego, trauma medical director at St. Mary’s Medical Center, said.

He said Wakeman is the third shark bite survivor the medical center has treated so far this year.

“The fact that there are 20 sharks in there, and you were able to get out of there and still have a leg? It’s amazing. And I think it also goes to say how quickly he reacted and that he didn’t panic,” Borrego said.

The Wakemans thank the crews in the Bahamas and St. Mary’s Medical Center for saving their son’s life.

“It’s not often that a shark attack victim gets treated by a shark attack doctor. So, we were very fortunate there, and I will be forever grateful,” Rufus Wakeman, his father and captain, said.

Sister station WPBF asked Wakeman if he ever plans on getting back on a boat soon.

“Oh yeah, as soon as I can, for sure,” he said, laughing.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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