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Mother of 13-year-old who survived shark attack: 'It is a miracle'

The mom of a California shark attack victim said her son plans to return to the ocean after surviving a deep bite to his chest while fishing for lobster.
/ Source: TODAY

The mother of a Southern California teen who was bitten by a shark on Saturday has lauded her son's quick thinking and the actions of three men nearby in the water for saving his life in a harrowing situation.

"I think it is a miracle, and I think Keane is a miracle,'' Ellie Hayes said at a news conference at Rady Children's Hospital in La Jolla on Monday. "He's very strong and he's a survivor."

Keane Webre-Hayes, 13, was 200 yards offshore of Beacon Beach in Encinitas fishing for lobster when he was attacked. His mother watched from a parking lot on the bluffs above the beach as her son screamed for help.

The boy suffered a deep bite through his right ear and the right side of his chest, shoulder and back, yet had the presence of mind to swim toward a man on a nearby kayak for help.

"We probably would have swam to the shore because the shark doesn't go ashore, and (Keane) had the wits about him and he knew there was (a man) in a kayak away from the shore,'' Hayes said. "That's amazing to me."

Three men — a kayaker, a lifeguard and an off-duty police officer — assisted the boy in the water, paddling him back to the beach. He was then airlifted to Rady Children's Hospital, where he was rushed into surgery.

"I just want to say thank you to all three of them,'' Hayes said. "Without what they did, we would be having a whole different scenario."

"I started paddling towards him and there was a big ole', you know, wake of blood behind him,'' kayaker Chad Hammel said at the news conference. "His entire back was open. The shark hit him in the clavicle. The shark’s top teeth got him in his cheek."

Webre-Hayes currently remains in the intensive care unit and is expected to make a full recovery. Despite what happened, he plans on quickly returning to the ocean.

"He wants to go back into the water,'' his mother said. "Today someone brought him a mask and a snorkel. He feels pretty determined in this moment that he's going to get back out there.

"He said, 'Mom, the chances are so much more slim on the second bite.'''

The viciousness of the attack on Webre-Hayes is rare for that area.

"In the 30 years of experience that we have between us, we aren't aware of an injury like this in this hospital,'' Dr. Tim Fairbanks, chief of pediatric and trauma surgery at Rady Children's Hospital, said at the news conference.

Witnesses said the shark looked to be about 11 feet long. Experts are analyzing its DNA to see what type of shark it was.

The beach was closed for 48 hours following the attack but has since reopened, with no reports of any shark activity in the area.