Shark attack victim recovering, in serious condition; North County beaches reopen
Before going lobster hunting on the morning of Sept. 29 at Beacon’s Beach in Encinitas, 13-year-old Keane Webre-Hayes told his mother that he would make her a lobster dinner that night, Ellie Hayes told reporters Oct. 1 at Rady Children’s Hospital.
A shark attack interrupted the hunt, critically injuring the teen, whom doctors said was recovering and in serious condition Monday, Oct. 1, in a pediatric intensive care unit.
Ellie Hayes described her son as a “brave, very strong, athletic ... warrior.”
“I didn’t know he was that good of a swimmer,” Hayes said. “I’m really proud of him.”
Dr. Tim Fairbanks, the chief of pediatric surgery and the medical director for trauma at the children’s hospital, shared a message from the boy at the news conference.
“Keane wants you to know he has all his limbs,” Fairbanks said. “And he’s going to be going home fully intact.”
Samples swabbed from Webre-Haye’s wetsuit have been sent to a geneticist in hopes of identifying what kind of shark bit him. Results from the tests were expected later in the week (following this newspaper’s deadline), said Chris Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at Long Beach State University.
Determining what kind of shark bit the boy will help authorities better understand the behavior patterns of sharks and what risks people face in the region’s waters.
Lifeguards on Oct. 1 reopened beaches from Ponto Beach in southern Carlsbad to Swami’s Beach in Encinitas. The stretch of coastline had been closed to swimmers, divers and surfers since Sept. 29.
The beaches reopened at 7 a.m. after no other shark sightings were reported by lifeguards or members of the public, said city spokeswoman Lois Yum. “So that’s really great news,” she said.
At a separate news conference on the afternoon of Oct. 1, Encinitas Marine Safety Capt. Larry Giles advised people going in the water to be cautious, but also stressed that shark attacks are rare.
“In 30 years working here in the city of Encinitas, we have not had anything like this in our city, ever,” he said. “In the last 50 years, I’m not aware of anything like this happening in our city.”
A fatal shark attack happened in Solana Beach in 2008, he noted, and a non-fatal shark attack happened near Camp Pendleton this summer.
Giles said additional patrols would be on the coast for the rest of the week, and he urged anybody who spotted a shark to tell lifeguards, law enforcement officers or fire department officials.
Researchers are trying to determine what kind of shark attacked the boy as he was diving for lobsters early Sept. 29 at Beacon’s Beach at the foot of Leucadia Boulevard.
The teen suffered traumatic upper body wounds in the attack. A GoFundMe account had raised more than $28,500 as of Oct. 1.
Giles said the public has been cooperative, and most people obeyed the city’s order to stay out of the water over the 48-hour closure. At the same time, however, almost all of the signs warning people to stay off city beaches because of a shark sighting had been stolen, he said.
Sept. 29 was the first day of lobster-diving season, and Oct. 1 was the first day non-baited traps could be set in the water.
Giles advised anybody going in the water to be aware of other wildlife around them, as the behavior of seals or dolphins can indicate a shark in the area.
Wally Buckingham, a Cardiff resident and former San Diego lifeguard, was one of several people diving for lobster Sept. 29.
“Earlier in the dive, I was harassed by a seal,” he said. “He wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, he went away.”
Buckingham said the seal’s behavior might have been related to a shark in the area, and he suspects the shark may have been attracted by the many people swimming and talking in the calm, mostly flat water.
“They sent out a lot of vibrations,” he said. “I heard that when sharks hear a vibration, they come and investigate.”
Buckingham said he was about 40 yards away from the boy who was attacked.
“I heard a guttural, primal scream, like ‘Help me, help me,’” he said. "I saw all this commotion by a kayak, and I see an individual yelling, ‘9-1-1, Call 9-1-1. Everybody out of the water.’”
Buckingham said he assumed someone had spotted a shark, so he came out of the water. Three men in kayaks, including an off-duty Oceanside police officer and a state lifeguard, brought the boy to the beach.
Buckingham said he helped take the boy’s wetsuit off and saw what he called severe trauma to his body.
The boy was attacked about an hour after lobster diving season opened and about two dozen hunters were in the area when the boy began screaming about 200 yards from shore.
Witnesses have said the shark was around 11 feet long.
Webre-Hayes’ mother and doctor offered few new details about what happened. His mother suggested the teen swam away from shore, but toward a kayak, after the attack.
“He had the wits about him, knew there were men in a kayak away from the shore, and that’s amazing to me,” Ellie Hayes said. “I will never question his wits again, ever.”
Hayes said her son’s survival was a miracle, “and I think Keane is a miracle,” she said. “He’s very, very, very strong. He’s a survivor now … he is an incredible human being.”
-- Karen Kucher, Gary Warth and Alex Riggins are reporters for The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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