July 25, 2016
Dr. Steve Cutbirth's injuries.
A 62-year-old dentist from Texas was attacked by a 6-foot bull shark while free diving in waters near Green Turtle Cay, Abaco early Saturday morning.
Dr. Steve Cutbirth, of Waco, was spear fishing with his son-in-law and two guides when the attack happened. In an interview with The Tribune, Dr. Cutbirth said he had just speared a hogfish and was returning to the surface when “it was if a football linebacker crashed into” his head.
“Once a fish is speared, it is immediately taken to the surface and deposited in the boat. We never dangle speared fish behind us. I was unaware that our guide’s nephew had speared a fish or that the 6 foot shark had come in close. My fish was large and since there are no lines attached to the spear on a Hawaiian sling, the fish was moving about on the coral head. I finally got hold of the spear and began moving the fish toward the surface. I held the fish just above my head on the spear. As I neared the surface, all of a sudden it was as if a football linebacker had crashed into the right side of my head,” Dr. Cutbirth said.
“I was stunned and could not imagine what had hit me. I looked to my right and there was the white bottom side of the shark’s mouth along with a wide, open mouth and plenty of teeth. I released the spear and fish and instinctively struck out with the back of my right arm and hand, still holding the spear handle and striking the shark square in the right side of its head. That knocked it back a bit, only to have it now in full frenzy coming back at me, banging into my side and right leg, searching for the speared fish. I kicked it with my fin and shot to the surface in a daze, not knowing exactly what had taken place...My boat mates quickly helped me onto the boat.
“Lots of blood you can imagine. We assessed my injuries, made sure no body parts were missing, applied ice packs, and headed for the small island medical clinic. Since the water is so clear and I was within 10 feet of the surface, my guide said he watched the shark speed though the water and make the hit on me.”
Dr. Cutbirth suffered facial and right leg wounds that required stitches. He said there was no physician on the island and he was initially told he would have to be transferred to the mainland for treatment.
However, he convinced a local nurse that she could stitch him up.
“The nurse gathered herself and proceeded to do a jolly good job of stitching me up. A few gaps here and there, but by and large all the pieces are together,” Dr. Cutbirth said.
“I was most thankful for the nurse’s courage and effort. My dive mask and knife, strapped to my right leg, seemed to have prevented significant tissue loss. The bites were above my mask on my forehead and below my mask through my upper right lip and cheek. He got a nice bite on my right knee on both sides of the kneecap and my right outer thigh. All in all, no complaints - a very lucky person. All men should have a few well placed scars on their face.”
Dr. Cutbirth said unfortunately, he has to stay out of the ocean for “a week or so” but because the nurse did such a great job stitching him up, he has “no plans on returning home early” and will continue his vacation as scheduled.
He said he does not blame the shark for “doing what sharks do” and next year he will be back in the Bahamas, doing what he loves, as if the incident never happened.
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By Sancheska Brown, Tribune Staff Reporter
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