Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shark attacks 19-year-old Admiral Farragut grad swimming behind her home in St. Pete Beach

ST. PETE BEACH — Handyman Wilbur Drummond was working next door when he joked to the young woman swimming in the murky waters of Boca Ciega Bay that she better watch out.

"I said, 'Girl you better get out of the water,' " he said. "What if some big fish takes a bite out?"

Minutes later, he heard screaming.

The 19-year-old woman was bitten by a shark while swimming behind her home on Wednesday afternoon, according to St. Pete Beach Fire Rescue.

Jenna James was bitten below her right knee, according to St. Pete Beach Fire Marshal Ernie Hand. She was in the water just 10 to 12 yards from her backyard dock when she was attacked by an as-yet-unidentified species of shark.

The wound was considered serious but not life-threatening, Hand said. He did not believe the victim was in danger of losing her leg. James, a graduate of Admiral Farragut Academy, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center for emergency treatment.

She was rescued from the water by her sister, according to the fire marshal. The sister pulled her injured sibling out of the water and was treating her wounds when paramedics arrived.

"Her sister, I think, falls in the line of an everyday hero," Hand said. "Her sister did a great job tending to her. She wrapped the wound in several towels which became a pressure bandage."

James was conscious while en route to the hospital, the fire marshal said. The incident took place about 3 p.m. at the family's home at 7015 Boca Ciega Drive.

Drummond, 44, said the sister called him over to help secure the family's dog before paramedics arrived. He said the flesh on James's bloody leg looked like it had been shredded.

The attack occurred less than 3 miles from the scene of the last shark bite fatality in the Tampa Bay area. On Aug. 30, 2000, a 9-foot, 400-pound bull shark killed Thadeus Kubinski, 69, who was swimming off his own backyard dock at 4321 Holland Drive. The shark crushed his rib cage and tore his liver, authorities said.

The 2000 attack took place in front of his horrified wife. Kubinski bled to death, the medical examiner said.

Sharks are attracted by splashing, and experts believe the shark that attacked Kubinski was attracted by the splash he made jumping into the water. But there are also bait fish in the water, and most shark attacks are the result of mistaken identity.

The bull shark is the largest and most dangerous species of shark that inhabits local waters, especially shallow waters. It is also among the species most likely to attack humans.

But blacktip and spinner sharks are more common and together are responsible for more shark attacks. They're also smaller.

The first recorded fatal attack in Pinellas County is believed to have taken place 87 years ago. Dorothy McClatchie, 18, was bitten in the thigh while swimming a mile off St. Petersburg. A "monster fish" twice bit her in the leg, according to news accounts, and she bled to death.

Tampa Bay waters — including Manatee County — have seen 16 shark attacks, three of which have been fatal, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.

In 1981 a fatal attack took place in Manatee County waters between Anna Maria Island and Egmont Key. Mark Meeker, 26, suffered a fatal leg wound inflicted by a tiger or hammerhead shark.

Pinellas' coastline has seen two deaths and 12 attacks, including Wednesday's encounter. It was the fourth attack in Pinellas waters since Kubinski died in 2000.

Previous attacks took place in 2004 in Big Bayou and in 2005 at Sand Key Beach. The county's last reported shark attack was in May. That's when 39-year-old Dana Joseph of Orlando got 11 stitches in his foot after he said he was bitten by a shark while wading off Clearwater Beach near Pier 60.

The latest victim, Jenna James, is a 2008 graduate of Admiral Farragut and was the St. Petersburg military school's co-valedictorian last year. According to Admiral Farragut's alumni magazine, she graduated with a 4.35 GPA, ran track and cross country, and was a member of the National Honor Society and student government. She also volunteered at Treasure Island Animal Hospital.

"She's a very nice, quiet girl," said Admiral Farragut athletic director Joe Holtzclaw, who was on vacation and hadn't heard about the incident until contacted by a reporter. "She was one of our brightest."

James planned to attend New York University, according to the magazine, and planned to major in creative writing.

Her family declined to comment to the St. Petersburg Times on Wednesday and asked Bayfront Medical Center not to release any information about her condition.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy, staff writer Bob Putnam and staff photographer Cherie Diez contributed to this report.

Shark attacks 19-year-old Admiral Farragut grad swimming behind her home in St. Pete Beach 07/22/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 5:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. It's official: Hillsborough high schools move to 8:30 a.m. start time, elementary schools to go earlier

    K12

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County high schools school will be in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. starting in 2018-19, the School Board decided Tuesday in a 6-0 vote.

    The Hillsborough County School Board has decided to end a compressed bus schedule that caused an estimated 12,000 children to get to school late every day. Under the new schedule, high schools will start at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Elementary schools will start at 7:40 a.m. and middle schools at 9:25 a.m. [Times files]
  2. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  3. The topic will be neighborhoods as Kriseman, Baker debate one more time

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, in a candidate forum on Wednesday hosted by the influential Council of Neighborhood Associations.

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and former Mayor Rick Baker during a September forum. The two will will face off, possibly for the last time before the Nov. 7 election, during  a candidate forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 5th St. N. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  4. The upcoming Han Solo movie is called ... 'Solo'

    Blogs

    I hope you know what you're doing, Star Wars.

  5. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]