Marco Flagg report

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Posted by on May 25, 2005 at 15:52:07:

In Reply to: Marco Flagg was attacked UW on SCUBA also. posted by Chuck Tribolet on May 24, 2005 at 17:28:03:

A Report Of The Shark Attack On Marco Flagg

Incident Report
Filed By Marco Flagg

Date of Report: July 2, 1995. 13:20 PDT

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The following report is an account of a shark attack on myself. This report details the sequence of events, as observed by myself, to the best of my knowledge and experience. I am attempting to keep this report as factual as possible. The times, measurements and other estimates are specified to the best of my recollection at this time, about 44 hours after the attack. As I attempt to not understate, overstate or otherwise misstate any such estimates, the reviewer should expect a roughly equal probability of error in either direction of the statement.
Basic Facts
Location of incident
Outside of Bluefish Cove, Pt. Lobos State Park, Monterey, California. The boat (12.5' Zodiac) was anchored in approx. 90 feet of water. The attack occurred approx. 200 feet from the boat in approx. 40 feet of water (in mid water). The underwater location is characterized by underwater rocky outcroppings, interspersed by sandy channels. Kelp is growing in the area, but there was no kelp at the site of the attack itself.
Time of Incident
Approx. 17:30 PDT, June 30, 1995
Flat calm, no/minimal wind, no swell, reduced ambient surface light due to low clouds and relatively late time in the day.
About myself
I am a 31 year old diver, certified in 1988. I hold both a PADI Advanced Open Water and a NOAA working diver certification. I have logged approximately 300 divers in a variety of locations throughout California as well as the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Arctic Ocean (Greenland) and the South Atlantic (Cape Horn). By profession I am an electronics engineer. I am self employed and am the proprietor of Desert Star Systems, a small company that produces oceanographic equipment for scientific, military and commercial users, as well as sport divers. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, born in Germany.
Chronological Incident Report
I had been invited to some social/pleasure diving at Pt. Lobos by two friends, Steve and Marcie (last name withheld per request). We intended to make use of the good diving conditions that had lately been reported. After some engine trouble with the Zodiac inflatable early in the day, we finally started our first dive at approx. 14:55 PDT. The dive lasted about 40 minutes, my max. depth was 98 feet. The visibility was about 10 feet at the surface and improving to about 30 feet at the bottom. After the first dive, we left our dive site marker buoy in place and headed for shore for a late lunch and a surface interval.

At approx. 17:20 PDT (I did not check the watch), we started the second dive of the day. I was trying out Steve's diver propulsion vehicle (scooter) and, propelled by the scooter, was proceeding through the water at an approx. 20 degree descent angle. After maybe two minutes and at a depth of about 50 feet (according to depth gauge on the scooter), I looked to my right and saw the massive pectoral fin attached to the end of a torpedo shaped body of a large fish. The fish was at a distance of maybe 20 feet, at the edge of the visibility. The sighting lasted for two to three seconds before the animal disappeared from view in the cloudy water. The approx. 5 foot section I saw did not include the dorsal fin or any part forward of the animal. Somewhat stunned, I quickly thought that the animal matched the shape and size of a white shark (I had never seen a white shark before myself, but had seen plenty of footage recorded by other divers). Also thinking that the animal was most likely just passing and would not attack me, I decided it to be prudent to return to the boat to warn Steve and Marcie. I turned the scooter around and proceeded in the direction of the boat. I used the scooter to propel myself at a slight upward angle, attempting to be careful to not surface too fast and provoke an air embolism. I also did not want to surface far from the boat, recalling that many attacks occur at the surface. I was in an alert, apprehensive state but still calm enough to think 'gee, and I got to see it without paying for a shark diving trip' (I naturally have a somewhat strange sense of humor and looking at things). Maybe 15 to 20 seconds after the first sighting (I had already turned the scooter around), I looked to my left and below and saw the massive, wide open, near circular, teeth lined mouth of an animal coming at me. The mouth appeared to have a diameter of certainly more than two feet but most likely not more than three feet. I thought 'Oh, Shit' and shortly (one second) there after felt a severe but dull pressure on my body. I do not recall being shaken by the animal nor taking any significant evasive or defensive action. Instead, I appeared to be free from its hold after maybe two seconds (hard to recall). As soon as I realized I was free I thought 'it did not bite very hard'. I tried to feel if my legs where still there, and they appeared to be. I decided to proceed along the set course at the maximum speed of the scooter, again attempting to surface close to the boat, to not surface too rapidly, and to not trash around thinking that that might cause the animal to bite again.

Surfacing about 20 yards from the boat, I proceeded the rest of the way on the surface. I reached the boat and decided to drop the scooter rather than attempting to lug it into the boat. I attempted to climb into the Zodiac with full dive gear (which I can usually do) about two or three times, without succeeding. I then jettisoned the weight belt and removed my tank/BCD/regulator assembly. I climbed into the boat and, attempting to pull my gear in, I fell back into the water. As fast as I could, I climbed back in and started to 'rev' the engine in neutral in short bursts so as to warn Steve and Marcie. I had a dull pain in my gut, but thought that there was probably no big loss of blood as I was still conscious. Steve surfaced after 3-5 minutes about 20 to 30 feet from the boat, and I told him I had been attacked. He handed me his video camera (which later fell back into the water due to an attached weight belt) and climbed into the boat. We kept using the engine-rev technique to signal to Marcie, who surfaced several more minutes later.

We left the marker buoy in place and proceeded to shore. I climbed out of the boat on my own, but then sat down because I felt weak. The ambulance arrived within a few minutes, the Paramedics removed my wet suit, placed me in the ambulance and transported me to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for treatment by Dr. Blynn Shideler.

I sustained a cut wound of about 1.75" diameter on my left forearm (six stitches), with another 1" scrape mark. Another eight stitches were required for a cut wound on my left, upper leg. The third cut wound is on my left lower abdomen (two stitches). A bruise is in the vicinity of that wound. The distance from the leg wound to the arm wound is 20 inch if my arm is down and 30 inch if my arm is extended at a 45 degree angle up (while standing). I do not specifically recall what position my arm was in when the animal bit. The fact that I was using the scooter at the time suggests that it should have been 'up'.

I was treated with oxygen and intravenous fed antibiotics. I developed a slight fever (around 100F, I recall), which mostly had subsided by the next morning. Now, 44 hours after the attack, I am in good health, back at the office filing this report. There is a burning sensation still involved with the cut wound and a dull pressure in the abdomen area close to the cut wound and bruise. There appear to be no mental changes (no depression, fear, shaking, euphoria, etc.)

At the time of the attack, I was wearing a 1/4" Fathom wet suit (black/blue) consisting of a 'farmer-john' part and a jacket. I was wearing 22 pounds of weight on a yellow/orange weight belt. A DiveTracker DTX (a product of our company) served as my instrumentation console. The DiveTracker is housed in an 8" x 3.5" x 2.5" aluminum box with 1/4" aluminum wall strength. There are clean cut wounds in both parts of the wet suit at the locations of the cut wounds to my body. Most of the cuts in the wet suit are triangular in shape, a few are straight cuts. The major cuts in the wet suit range from 0.75" to 1.1" in length. In the vicinity of the cut in the arm, there are three smaller triangular cuts which only partially penetrate the material. There are two gashes in the plastic label on the face of the DiveTracker instrument (which was attached to the high pressure hose) and there are what appear to be teeth marks on the back of the steel tank as well.

The following personal statements are hypothesis and not facts and are not to be taken as such:

My injuries in this incident are very light, considering the circumstances. One reason for this may be that the shark, for whatever reason, simply decided to not exert much force on my body. Another possibility is that I in fact got sandwiched between two layers of metal. The shark may have bit onto the tank on my back and the DiveTracker instrument on my front. The DiveTracker instrument may have well rested on my abdomen (its natural position). Thus, the pressure on the tank and on the DiveTracker spread the force of the bite over a large area and resulting in the bruise on my abdomen. In this case, the cut wounds to my body may have simply been points were my body was 'bulging out' from in between the instrument and the tank. In effect, I would have been protected by armor.

From a single incident it is impossible to tell what factors were involved in the shark choosing to attack me. My simple suspicion is that it was hungry and that I happened to run across its path. One might argue forever that it was this or that piece of gear or behavior on my part that provoked the attack. Again, a single incident of a shark attack cannot possibly be used to come to any valid conclusion as to the 'why' of the attack. This incident must be seen in the context of a large number of incidents. Unfortunately, attacks by sharks on humans along the California coast are so rare that a big database of incidents from which to draw conclusions does simply not exist.

For my part, I will not be deterred from diving in these waters. Statistics show the probability of an attack on myself or anybody else to be extremely remote.

Subject: Some Shark Attack Info

I was not with Marco when the shark attack occurred Friday afternoon. However, I did pick him up at the hospital on Saturday morning and spent the day with him. Marco subscribes to rec.scuba and tech diver but does not subscribe to ba_diving. Therefore, I will provide some additional details and facts of the attack.

Marco and 2 other divers were diving out of an inflatable boat just outside of Whaler's Cove, Pt. Lobos, late in the afternoon on Friday. The other divers were setting up video equipment intending to do a shot of Marco on the electric scooter. Marco was playing on the scooter getting ready to make an approach on the video camera. They were diving in open water at a depth of about 40 feet. Bottom depth was about 80 feet.

Marco was just out of sight of the other divers when he saw the tail of the shark go by. After about 15 seconds, he saw the sharks mouth and was bitten. The shark released and Marco pointed the scooter toward the boat and started a controlled ascent to the boat using a Divetracker attached to the scooter. The Divetracker is a sonar homing device with a transmitter installed on the boat and a receiver carried by a diver. The receiver does not transmit a signal but merely receives a signal from the transmitter and provides a LED readout showing the direction of the transmitter.

Marco was able to get into the boat, start the engine and rev it in an erratic pattern to signal the other two divers who were still underwater. The other two divers did not witness the attack since Marco was just out of sight when the attack occurred. After the two divers surfaced, they all headed to shore and Marco was taken to the hospital.

Marco was released the next morning. He had three puncture wounds, one on the left leg, groin and left arm. A total of 15 stitches were made. He had very little loss of blood, did not go in shock, and was coherent during the entire incident. A large scratch was also found on the aluminum housing of a dive computer that he was carrying in place of a conventional console. This aluminum housing is about the size of small brick, has 0.25 inch thick walls and houses some professional dive computer electronics. This unit and possibly his air tank may have absorbed a significant amount of the sharks force. Marco identified the shark as a great white and estimated the length to 15 feet which was consistent with the size of the bite.

There are at least 2 things that make this shark bite unique. One was that Marco saw the shark before he was bitten. Most victims have not seen the shark before the attack. The other, that he was bitten by a great white and had very little bodily injury. A doctor in Monterey ( I forgot his name) has been collecting photographs and data of shark attack victims in the Monterey Bay for the past 30 years. He said that Marco's injuries were the lightest he has seen. He also said that most Monterey Bay victims have been surfers and have been surface attacks. There has only been one fatality since he has been taking data.

Marco has logged over 300 dives. Ranger Jerry Loomis and his dive partners all said that his diving experience really showed during this incident. In regards to diving alone, Marco was diving with 2 buddies, however, they were not within sight of each other when the attack occurred. Most divers agree that diving alone is more dangerous than diving with a buddy. However, some divers choose on occasion to take that added risk. This issue is addressed every other month or so on rec.scuba.

Marco and the Pt. Lobos Rangers have been very good with the press in the release of information to make sure the facts are used. As Marco talks in the future with professional shark researchers, I am sure more information will become available. I hope this helps sort out some of the facts from rumors.

Gregg Holtmeier.

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