Broward County

Bull shark attacks Deerfield Beach man in the Bahamas

MIAMI - His blood tinting the water red, Luis Hernandez didn't know if he'd make it as the 7-foot bull shark tore into his right forearm.

Hernandez, 48, of Deerfield Beach, had been spearfishing off the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas last week when the shark attacked.

"It felt as though a torpedo hit my body," he said.

But Hernandez wasn't alone. Watching from their rented fishing boat, his wife, Marlene Hernandez, 46, lifted the anchor and pulled her husband out of the waters once the shark let go. She then crafted a tourniquet and got the boat back to land, the family said.

This is a woman who can barely stand the sight of blood," Luis Hernandez joked from his bed at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. "But she came through that day. She became my angel."

The encounter happened on May 6, during the second day of a romantic getaway the couple took to the Bahamas.

Luis Hernandez, who was in the mood for fish, had just speared a grouper at a local reef when he spotted the shark.

"The first thing I thought was, 'Wow, nice shark!" he said. "So I swam a little closer and thought about spearing it, but decided to let it go. I just poked it so it would get out of my way."

But the shark wouldn't leave. It eventually lunged at him, sinking its teeth into his arm.

"I saw them in the water and I knew immediately it was a shark," Marlene Hernandez said. "It was like a nightmare, like a movie."

The shark eventually let go, taking with it a chunk of Luis Hernandez's forearm; he could see strips of muscle dangling from his bone.

Hernandez's encounter, like most shark bites, was probably the result of confusion on the part of the fish, said Carl Luer, senior scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

Hernandez spearing a grouper may have led to the attack, Luer said.

While not considered particularly aggressive, bull sharks are the third most common in Florida and Caribbean waters - after nurse sharks and reef sharks - and have been blamed for numerous attacks.

Since the encounter, Luis Hernandez has gone through a number of surgeries on his arm, which doctors say will take six months to a year to recover.

For now, Luis Hernandez recuperates, regaling family and friends with the tale of his wife's daring rescue.

Also on his mind: He wants to one day return to the reef with his brother, Jorge Hernandez, of Tampa, and hunt down that shark.