Franklyn O’Rourke faced a surfer’s worst nightmare in Jacksonville, Florida.
The 23-year-old competitive surfer was bitten by a shark on the arm while surfing near the Jacksonville Beach Pier. The attack was caught on video, showing O’Rourke’s struggle to stay above water on his surfboard while the shark swam around him.
O’Rourke escaped with only a bite on his arm and no other serious injuries and was treated on the beach by lifeguards on duty.
“I’m happy to be here and alive and well,” the 23-year-old said in a video addressing the attack. “Literally just latched onto my arm. I’ve never felt force like that from any animal or anything in my life, so I was in shock.”
Florida has the largest number of shark sightings in the United States, however, attacks are relatively uncommon. In 2019 so far, there have only been 24 unprovoked shark attacks reported.
Just this past June, an eight-year-old boy was bitten by a shark off the boast of North Carolina, the third victim that month in that area. The boy suffered puncture wounds to his leg and was rushed to the hospital with expectations to make a full recovery.
“We are not a natural prey item in their world, so when we do get these encounters, as unfortunate as they are, it is most likely a case of mistaken identity,” Hap Fatzinger, the director of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher said.
Prior to the incident involving the eight-year-old victim, two surfers were attacked in the water, a 19-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl. The 17-year-old lost one leg and two fingers during the attack, but was saved by her father punching the shark until it let her go.
There were two major shark attacks in the Bahamas in the month of June, one resulting in the tragic death of a 21-year-old college student on vacation with her family.
Jordan Lindsey was snorkeling with her mother in the Bahamas and was attacked by three sharks. After being rushed to the hospital, Lindsey died from her wounds during the attack.
Jonathan Hernandez, a professional boat captain and fisherman from Florida, ended up in danger from a shark bite off of Abaco Island. Despite being an experienced diver, Hernandez was attacked from behind when a shark bit his left calf. The fisherman was able to break free and swim to safety.
Hernandez puts the blame on popular local shark-feeding businesses in the Bahamas, allowing tourists to have close encounters with sharks.
"They're associating humans with getting food and it's making it very dangerous to be in the water, whether you're spearing or you just happen to be snorkeling near where they're feeding them,” he said.