A teen who survived a shark attack at the end of the summer is speaking out for the first time about what went through his head the moment he was attacked in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Diego.
In an interview with Good Morning America‘s Michael Strahan on Thursday, 13-year-old Keane Webre-Hayes revealed that he’s “feeling great” after the injury, which required him to be airlifted to a hospital and undergo five hours of surgery and require roughly 1,000 stitches.
The teen went on to describe the terrifying moment, which occurred during a lobster-diving expedition with his friend Noah on Sept 29.
“I feel something tackle me and it took my mask off,” he explained. “At first I thought it was Noah trying to mess with me, trying to scare me. Then I come up, my mask is off, I’m all confused, and then I look over.”
Webre-Hayes continued, “My wetsuit is all ripped up, and blood is starting to go into the water. I look up, and I see Noah’s snorkel still in the water, so I know it wasn’t Noah, and then just by instinct I start swimming to that kayak as fast as I can and I’m screaming for help, help, help … Shark! … I swim to the kayak, I pull myself on, and I tell the guy we have to get to shore.”
Strahan praised the boy, saying that he essentially saved himself. Webre-Hayes responded humbly, “Yeah.”
His mother, Ellie Hayes, also shared her recollection of the traumatic day and the impact it’s had on their family.
“I was on a cliff above the beach, I was on the phone with my husband, the sun was coming up and it was kind of an eery feeling out there … In the background I started hearing probably just the worst screams I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.
“And I told my husband … ‘Can you hold on a second? There’s someone screaming,’ and I stopped to listen. I couldn’t tell if it was Keane or someone else,” Hayes added.
She revealed her husband proceeded to joke on the phone that his son was “getting eaten by a shark … because the chances of it really happening” were so slim.
Within minutes, though, Hayes started to hear the “bellowing yells” of “Shark! Get out of the water!” which prompted her to bolt to the beach to find her son.
“I just wanted to make sure Keane was okay,” Hayes recalled. “I had no idea that he would be the one that was bitten by the shark.”
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In the weeks since, Webre-Hayes, who is now back in school part time, has endured, according to his mother, “constant bandage-changing, getting through all the doctors, trauma therapy, orthopedic surgeons, infectious disease … It’s really rocked our life as we know it. We’re really getting a new normal.”
According to the Associated Press, the shark bit deep into the boy’s body, reaching his chest wall and tearing his left upper back, torso, shoulder, face and ear.
Still, there’s one silver lining. Webre-Hayes was able to meet one of his heroes, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw and attend game 4 of the World Series. (Unfortunately, the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in game 5.)
Hayes described that day as “one of the most tragic things that our family has gone through” and that they’ve received an outpouring of support from family, friends and strangers through their GoFundMe.
But Webre-Hayes isn’t going to let it change his passions — he said he’s “definitely” going lobster diving again.