A scuba instructor spoke about the horrifying moment he was attacked by a 6-foot-long bull shark that ripped a large chunk off his arm while spearfishing.
Zack Winegardner, 26, was spear fishing 75 feet down off the coast of Marathon, Florida, on September 6 when a bull shark “appeared out of nowhere” behind him and sank its razor-sharp teeth into right arm, tearing off a piece. .
After realizing he had been bitten, Winegardner quickly ascended to the surface and returned to shore before being airlifted to Jackson South Medical Center in Miami.
Zack said the freak attack from the massive predator left him with a gaping hole in his arm, tore tendons in his wrist, and left tooth marks on the inside of his lower arm.
He spent ten days in the hospital where he had an intravenous bacterial cleanse, about 90 staples, and several stitches in his arm.
Zack Winegardner, 26, was spearfishing 75 feet off the coast of Marathon, Florida, on September 6 when the attack occurred. In the photo on the right: Zack in the hospital with his wife Haley
The six-year-old instructor was unable to work while he recovered, but six months after the ordeal, he is finally back in the water.
He also underwent a skin graft to repair the “big chunk” he was missing.
This was followed by four months of physical therapy to help him regain the use of his hand.
Despite intense therapy, Zack is still unable to fully bend his wrist or open his hand.
Zack, who lives in Marathon, said he did not have health insurance at the time of the accident because he was switching from his parents’ policy to his wife’s.
His grandmother rode a GoFundMe page to help you pay a staggering $250,000 bill. So far this has raised over $8,000.
The six-year-old instructor was unable to work while he recovered, but six months after the ordeal he is finally back in the water and teaching again, despite having fingers that don’t fully function.
The animal lover thinks the shark must have mistaken it for food.
He claims that the people who feed the sharks at the docks are responsible for making them “more comfortable” with humans.
Zack said the freak shark attack left him with a gaping hole in his arm, tore tendons in his wrist and left tooth marks on the inside of his lower arm.
Zack said, ‘I went spear fishing in Marathon and shot a fish. I was heading back to the boat and a bull shark came up behind me and just clung to my arm.
‘The shark, about 6ft, probably mistook me for food. He was probably going for my stringer and instead grabbed my arm. He bit me, realized I didn’t want me, and then bolted.
“It was like a sharp, quick pain and then almost everything went numb after that.”
He added: ‘After it came loose I swam to my friends and pointed out that I had been bitten and we made the ascent to the surface from about 75ft, got on a boat and headed for a dock.
NUMBER OF UNPROVOKED BITES IN 2022
Florida, United States – 16
Australia – 9
New York, USA – 8
South Africa – 2
Egypt – 2
Brazil – 1
New Zealand – 1
Thailand – 1
I tore tendons in my wrist and it took a big chunk out closer to my elbow and left a lot of teeth marks I guess.
It was pretty crazy. I was just thinking about getting back to land and then at the hospital they medicated me enough, I don’t think I really thought too much about it.
“I wasn’t worried about dying, but I thought I was going to lose my arm. I am very grateful that I still have it.
Zack was then taken to a helicopter where he was transferred to the hospital 94 miles away.
He said he had around 90 staples and countless stitches, as well as a skin graft from his thigh where a large chunk was torn off. He also noticed that she had a gaping hole in her arm.
Zack said: “I don’t have permanent nerve damage, but I do have bruises that make some of my fingers non-functional, but I did four months of physical therapy to get my hand working.”
Certain movements don’t work anymore, like my wrist doesn’t bend like it used to and I have two fingers that don’t go up. I can make a fist but I can’t fully open my hand.
“My right little and ring finger don’t work and then my thumb is numb all the time, but they said it will come back when the nerve bruising goes away.”
Winegardner was a full-time scuba instructor in the Florida Keys before the incident occurred.
Even on his days off, he enjoyed scuba diving for dinner and helping get rid of the state’s invasive lionfish, according to the GoFundMe page set up for him.
Despite being in tremendous pain during the ordeal, the diver said it hasn’t made him afraid of the ocean.
He said: “I’m a little weird when I can’t see, but it doesn’t stop me.”
Zack was airlifted to Jackson South Medical Center in Miami. He spent ten days in the hospital where he had an intravenous bacterial flush, about 90 staples and several stitches in his arm.
There were 57 unprovoked shark bites worldwide in 2022, most of which took place in the United States and Australia, according to the University of Florida International Shark Attack Archive, which released its annual data in February.
Consistent with long-term trends, the United States had the highest number of unprovoked shark bites in 2022, with 41 confirmed cases, up from 47 the year before.
In 2022, there were 16 unprovoked shark attacks in Florida, representing 28% of the global total. The state recorded two amputations, but no deaths.
Five of the attacks worldwide were fatal, fewer than the nine deaths in 2021 and the 10 deaths the year before, the university researchers found.