For spearfishermen in the waters off Hawaii’s Big Island, there are few things scarier than sharks—and among sharks, few are more dreaded than the large and aggressive tiger. Officials with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed earlier this week that 27-year-old Braxton Rocha was attacked just yards off Upolu Point in North Kohala. According to Rocha, he was spearfishing near some underwater caves when a 13-foot tiger shark appeared and chomped on his leg.
“It was massive and she was just right in front of me. I just put my hands on top of her nose to get her away from me, but she was pushing me back, just because of her brute force. She was so big. And she was pushing me back and I tried to get her off of me, away from me and that’s when she sunk down onto my leg,” Rocha told ABC 7.
Tiger sharks have massively powerful jaws and their teeth are capable of not only crushing through human bone, but even cracking turtle shells. Even a small nip has the potential to be deadly, and Rocha said the shark bit nearly to the bone.
“Once she locked on my leg… I cocked back, I punched her in the nose,” he told the Associated Press. “She let go and she swam away.”
Rocha returned to shore and yelled for his fishing companion, Shannon Pasco, who set the injured man’s leg in a tourniquet and transported him to the hospital. You can see a short video of Rocha documenting the deep gash on his leg. A word of warning: the video is very graphic.
“I just got attacked by a tiger shark,” Rocha, who was obviously in pain, told the camera.
A three-hour surgery followed, finally closing his wound with more than 100 staples. Rocha says he remains in good spirits and doctors expect him to make a full recovery. The spearfisherman is already walking again and says he intends to go back on the water soon, although for now he added that he is just happy to be alive.