Alex Smoake said that the woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time
Credit: Courtesy Alex Smoake

The friend of the Florida woman who was bitten by a 2-foot shark Sunday and ran out of the water with it still attached to her arm insists that the incident wasn’t the young woman’s fault.

Alex Smoake, who was with the 23-year-old woman (who does not want her name to be publicly released), says that their group of friends was snorkeling for the first time at Boca Raton Beach in Florida when the shark latched onto the woman’s right forearm.

Beachgoers at the time told authorities that one or more people had been antagonizing the nurse shark in the water.

“There were a lot of people in the water snorkeling,” Smoake tells PEOPLE. “Some kids scared the shark. It went one direction and when it turned it latched onto her arm.”

But when it did, Smoake says his friend “took it like a champ.”

He also insists that no one in his group antagonized the shark before the attack.

“We’re not going to try and do anything to a shark,” he says.

After it latched onto the woman’s arm, her friends tried to “pry” it off of her, but it stayed on her arm for about an hour. Although she didn’t need stitches, it “totally got into her skin,” Smoake says.

At the hospital, the group – who named the shark Greg – took a photo with the shark after it died from being out of the water. They then buried it at a local pet cemetery.

Nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom-dwellers that are generally harmless to humans unless provoked. They can grow up to 14 feet and have very strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth.

“People are playing with fire,” George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida told The Palm Beach Post. “They’re docile and make easy marks for people who want to treat them like a dog. But, if they get pissed off, they’ll bite. And, many times, they won’t let go.”

According to the ISAF, there are only 10 cases in history of an unprovoked attack on a human by a nurse shark, compared to 314 unprovoked attacks by great whites.