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Paramedic Recalls Shark Attack

May 29, 2002

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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ For nearly a year, paramedic Don Smith remained the unheralded stranger on a Florida beach who gave life-sustaining CPR to an 8-year-old boy whose arm was bitten off by a shark and later reattached in surgery.

As he emerged from obscurity Tuesday, Smith insisted that the boy’s aunt and uncle were the real heroes on that desperate beach last July 6.

``I’ve never seen two people more composed than those two were,″ Smith said.

Smith, 46, said he had not spoken publicly about the widely reported attack on Jessie Arbogast until Tuesday’s interview with The Associated Press in order to give the boy’s aunt and uncle time to give their accounts.

Vance and Diana Flosenzier, of Mobile, recently began granting interviews. On Friday, Diana Flosenzier was presented with the Red Cross’ highest award, the Certificate of Merit. During the ceremony in Mobile, she mentioned but did not name the paramedic visiting the beach at Pensacola, Fla., who helped keep the boy alive after the shark attack.

Smith, whose home in Atmore is about 60 miles north of Pensacola, said he had gone to the beach that day with his girlfriend and two others for swimming and snorkeling when he saw Jessie’s brother running down the beach, yelling: ``Call an ambulance. Somebody has been bit by a shark.″

``When I saw his face, I knew it wasn’t a joke,″ Smith said. ``I ran down there to see what it was.″

Smith, a paramedic for 22 years, assisted Diana Flosenzier in giving CPR. He said a Texas man, identified by park rangers as Ricky Carson of Longview, had pulled Jessie from the water and the boy’s uncle, a triathlete, pulled the 6 1/2-foot bull shark out of the water.

Park ranger Jared Klein shot the shark four times with a pistol and pried its jaw open with a police baton. Volunteer firefighter Tony Thomas used a clamp to pull the boy’s severed arm out of the shark’s gullet.

``Everybody got involved and helped in some aspect,″ said Smith. ``It was just an effort by everybody.″

He said he attended a private reunion with the Flosenziers at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola on May 10. Also attending were the park rangers, hospital personnel, lifeguards, doctors and others involved in the rescue and emergency medical response.

``I figured we would meet again when the time was right,″ Smith said.

Smith said he hasn’t seen Jessie since that day on the beach. The boy continues his recovery at home in Ocean Springs, Miss. His aunt said he’s responding to therapy by standing up with the help of a walker.

Jessie also sustained brain damage from oxygen depletion, caused by extreme blood loss. He’s moving his shoulder, elbow and some of the wrist and fingers on the reattached arm, his aunt said.

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On the Net:

Shark Attack File:

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/statistics.htm

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