Shark Attack Terror Recounted
Nov. 25, 1998
VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Sonny Wilson tried desperately to pull his 9-year-old stepson away from whatever was pulling him beneath the waves.
``I reached for his fingers,'' Wilson said Tuesday. ``I touched them. He was pulling me, too. I didn't realize it was a shark. I thought it was a wave.''
James Tellasmon was attacked about 40 yards offshore Saturday as his family and friends, from the citrus-growing area of Gifford, spent the day at the beach some 70 miles north of West Palm Beach on Florida's Atlantic Coast.
The boy's body, headless and armless, was found offshore Sunday. A medical examiner later concluded that the third-grader was killed by a large shark, but he did not know what species of shark.
Wilson said that when he last saw James, the boy's face appeared calm.
``He was looking at me but not saying anything,'' he said. ``Maybe he was in shock.''
Other swimmers saw the struggle and rushed into the rough surf to help.
``We didn't hear no screaming or anything,'' said Chad Taylor. ``But there was a lot of struggling.''
Local officials kept beaches open but urged swimmers to take extra precautions. Police on routine helicopter patrols kept an extra watch for sharks.
The last recorded Florida death blamed on a shark took place a decade ago and involved a swimmer diving far from shore.