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Chad Benson
Chad Benson
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24-year-old speaks out after falling into shark-filled marina: I got very lucky

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(NEW YORK) — While working on a boat docked in the Bahamas a couple weeks ago, Marlin Wakeman was jumping onto the vessel when it surged in the water and he slipped off the boat into the marina.

“I knew what was coming,” Wakeman said.

In a matter of seconds, the 24-year-old Floridian was able to pull himself back up onto the boat — but not before a Caribbean reef shark bit his leg.

The boat was docked at the Flying Fish Marina in Long Island, which regularly draws sharks thanks to the abundance of fish carcasses discarded by fishermen, Wakeman said.

“There’s at all times 20 sharks roaming around,” Wakeman told reporters during a press briefing Thursday at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he was treated for his shark bite. “Me and my buddies were talking about like, man, if you fell in here, like, you are done.”

He said the shark pulled him under the water then let go of his leg, and he was able to pull himself onto the boat before another shark bit him.

“I had so much adrenaline going through my body,” he said.

Wakeman said his boat captain tied a tourniquet on his leg once he got out of the water. Once the adrenaline wore off, he started to feel a lot of pain.

“I said, ‘Hey man, like, I really don’t want to die right now,"” he said he told his captain. “Like, this ain’t it.”

He went to a nearby clinic for “damage control” — where they stitched up the wound to stop the bleeding — before traveling to St. Mary’s Medical Center for surgery, according to Dr. Robert Borrego, a trauma surgeon at the hospital.

Judging by the circumference of the bite wound, Borrego estimated that the shark that bit Wakeman was at least 7 feet. The shark punctured the kneecap and just missed a nearby artery, Borrego said.

The team worked to clear out the wound due to the risk of infection and repaired the joint injury, Borrego said. Wakeman is expected to make a full recovery, he said.

“The fact that there’s 20 sharks in there and you were able to get out of there and still have a leg is amazing,” Borrego, who said he treats several shark bite victims a year, told reporters. “I think that is it almost to say how quickly he reacted and that he didn’t panic.”

Wakeman’s parents said they knew there was always a risk their son could get bitten by a shark since he works on the water, but they were still shocked to get the news when it happened.

“I know what they’re capable of,” his father, Rufus Wakeman, a boat captain, told reporters. “I have several friends who have been bitten and it’s a shocking revelation when you see some of the wounds these people have had to endure and now it’s my son. It’s our son. And it is just scary.”

His parents thanked everyone involved, from the crew on the boat to the doctors at the clinic and hospital.

“We’re just very grateful to be able to be here, that Marlin gets to tell his story,” his mother, Melynda Wakeman, told reporters.

Wakeman said he is also thankful to be able to share what happened.

“They’re an apex predator and if they bite you, it can be pretty ugly,” he said. “I got very lucky and it could have turned out to be a completely different, you know, outcome.”

Asked by a reporter how this might affect him going forward, Wakeman said he might “have some nightmares here and there” but thinks he will be OK.

“I would just maybe take another two seconds to be a little bit more careful when I jumped on the boat,” he said.

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