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Oahu surfer loses foot in shark attack

By Paul Drewes

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — Oahu surfer Mike Morita lost a foot in Sunday’s shark attack. But according to his son, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor — or his positive outlook on life.

Morita’s family say the 58-year-old is in good spirits as he recovers, in the hospital, from the shark attack at Kewalos — a rare attack on Oahu’s south shore that took place early in the morning.

But what is not rare is the number of tiger sharks that call our waters home.

“One of the things that we have to remember is that sharks are in Hawaiian waters all year round– tiger sharks. We know they are all around the islands, there is no special place where they’re more common or less common,” said Kim Holland, a shark researcher with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

Experts believe it was an eight foot tiger shark that bit onto Morita’s leg and pulled the surfer off his board.

“He ended up face to face with the shark with his foot still in its mouth and he wrapped his leg around it, like a bear hug. Throwing punches didn’t work, so he started going after the gills and eyes, and that is when the shark finally let him go,” said Morita’s son Kamu Morita.

While the longtime waterman survived the initial attack, it was the help of other surfers that helped him survive the ordeal.

“He was able to see the damage that was done on his leg and he realized he needed a tourniquet. My dad was calm and walked them through how to tie a tourniquet and they helped get him back to safety,” stated Kamu.

Morita lost his right foot in the attack, and will undergo another surgery this week, as doctors try to save as much of his leg as possible. While he has a challenging recovery ahead of him, Kamu said his dad has already talked about getting back into the ocean.

“The guy is a waterman. He always surfs Kewalos, Channels, he is there every morning…that is his getaway. I wouldn’t doubt he would want to get back in there, but he said he is at peace if he is not able,” added Kamu.

His family set up a GoFundMe Account to help with his medical expenses as he recovers.

Mike himself released a statement saying “With God in my life, I was able to get through this incident with faith, and trust in my heart that everything will be alright.”

Morita’s attack is very similar to the one that happened to Kauai body boarder Mike Coots back in 1997.

“When I started to go for a wave, a large tiger shark attacked me from below, it completely blindsided me. It grabbed onto my legs and I felt a great amount of pressure, I didn’t feel any pain what-so-ever. It lifted me out of the water and rag-dolled me back and forth.

I stuck my right hand in its mouth to try and get my legs out but that didn’t work. Then punched it in the nose with my left hand and it let go. It went back underwater and I got back on my board.

I knew I was hurt and started paddling for the beach. As I was paddling my right leg started doing this weird spasm. I looked over my shoulder, expecting to see a big set of jaws, and saw my leg had been severed off. Every time my heart beat I could see a squirt of blood. I knew I had to get to the beach and there was a good chance I was not going to make it,” stated Coots.

Just like in Sunday’s attack, fellow surfers came to the rescue. They wrapped a tourniquet around Coots’ leg, which saved his life.

After the attack, there were several surgeries, weeks of physical therapy and months of patience to regain the mobility that was lost in an instance.

“You have to wait for the swelling to go down and then they can fit you for a prosthetic. You have to be patient. You have to take your first steps with crutches, they you have to learn how to do little things again. A big step for me was learning how to drive my manual shift truck. Then being able to go on a hike and eventually being able to run again. That was magical,” added Coots.

He says the attack changed him for the better, and is now a shark photographer.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

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