Alabama Shark Attack Victim Speaks
Monday, June 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
GULF SHORES, Ala. (AP) â€” Confronted by a shark that had already sheared off a fellow swimmer's hand, Richard Watley knew he had the fight of his life.
``It came up under me, and I looked down and saw him staring me right in the face. I thought, 'I'm going to die,' and I decided I wasn't going to die without a fight,'' Watley said Saturday from his hospital room.
The shark attacked 55-year-old Watley, a barber shop owner, and Chuck Anderson, 44, a coach and vice principal at nearby Robertsdale High School, Friday morning as they swam in the Gulf of Mexico training for a triathlon.
It was the first unprovoked shark attack in Alabama waters in 25 years.
Anderson lost his right arm a few inches below the elbow and Watley was bitten all the way up the right side of his body.
``It hit Chuck first. I didn't even know what was going on,'' Watley said.
The shark chased Anderson all the way to shore, then came after Watley, who was about 80 to 100 feet out. He had seen Anderson stagger out of the water but thought he had just run into some jellyfish.
``It bit my thigh and would have taken a chunk out of me, but I hit it again,'' Watley said. ``I thought it might leave me alone, but it came at me again and again.''
``I would punch him, he would retreat, and then I would swim as fast as I could for about 5 to 10 seconds, but then I would have to turn around and face him again.
``He chased me all the way to shore.''
George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, said the men were probably attacked by a full-grown bull shark. They can be up to 11 feet long and weigh 500 pounds.
``Their teeth are designed to incise chunks out of their prey and shear off flesh, much like what happened to Mr. Anderson's arm,'' Burgess said.
Public beaches along the coast were reopened to swimmers at noon Saturday, but planes continued to fly over the coast, looking for large numbers of sharks or schools of baitfish close to shore. Even though the immediate danger has passed, Burgess cautioned people not to swim alone, especially at dawn and dusk.