By: Josh Greene | Media Editor
May 2, 2017
At approximately 6:30 PM on a seemingly-normal, tranquil day at San Onofre State Beach, a tragedy occurred when a woman was carried up the beach after being severely attacked by a shark.
Leeanne Ericson, a North Orange County resident believed to be in her 30’s, was swimming just several yards off the beach at San Onofre when the shark swam up to her and attacked, leaving her leg very badly wounded. Responding immediately, two nearby surfers helped assist the woman, getting her onto a surfboard and helping her get back to the beach. When people on the beach first caught a glimpse of the scene, several surfers rushed out to assist the victim and rushed her into the beach.
First responder Hunter Robinson explained, “To be honest, when I got a glimpse of the wound, I’m surprised she survived.”
Soon after, lifeguards responded, securing the wound with a tunicate. Ericson was airlifted to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla for further treatment.
Immediately following the attack, city lifeguards initiated an entire San Clemente beach closure from San Onofre to North Beach, which was in effect for the weekend, but has since been extended due to the continuous frequent shark sightings. Over the past month, Surfline surf report webcams have captured sharks breaching in the area over the past month. The species of shark responsible for this particular attack remains unknown, but the San Onofre Trails area does have a reputation for being a Great White rookery, and the animals are occasionally seen by surfers and stand-up paddlers here.
Even weeks after the attack, many beachgoers and lifeguards are still worried due to the ongoing sightings of sharks up and down the coast of Orange County. In a recent incident, two stand-up paddlers were ordered to exit the water after a lifeguard helicopter warned them of the presence of approximately 15 Great White sharks below them.
Others see the shark sightings as a positive occurrence: a revival of shark populations, an important species in our aquatic ecosystems. Seasonal lifeguard and environmental teacher Bradley Kerr provides insight on the increased pattern in shark sightings.
He explains that there’s “an increasing presence of apex predators in our ecosystems, indicating an improvement in the overall health of our marine ecosystem,” suggesting that the ecosystem is returning to health.
Some daring surfers can’t resist the ocean and have tried to surf despite the hazardous conditions, but lifeguard officials have been quick to respond to prevent any casualties.
Junior Noah Hohenester explained, “I tried to surf at Lost Winds and a couple sheriff guys rolled up on their quads and told me I couldn’t paddle out because two sharks were just spotted down the beach. If they didn’t warn me, I could’ve been somebody’s dinner.”
With all the chaos and confusion the sharks have brought to this beach town, one thing seems to be for certain: they aren’t going away anytime soon, because they are always out there, we just haven’t been looking. San Clemente is in for an exciting summer.