Mother of Teen Shark Attack Victim Says Son is a 'Warrior' - NBC Southern California
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Mother of Teen Shark Attack Victim Says Son is a 'Warrior'

The chief of pediatric surgery at Rady Children's Hospital said the teen helped save his own life by making the "decision to survive."

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mom of Teen Shark Attack Victim Says His Survival is a Miracle

    NBC 7's Dave Summers was at a news conference Monday where the victim's mother spoke for the first time. (Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018)

    The mother of an Encinitas teenager bitten by a shark Saturday at Beacon Beach said the first things her son wants to do after getting out of the hospital are play baseball and get back out in the water.

    Keane Webre-Hayes, 13, was lobster fishing when he was bitten by the shark in the ear, shoulder and back, around 6:55 a.m. on Saturday.

    His mother Ellie Hayes was watching her son from a parking lot on the bluffs above the beach and could hear her son's screams.

    Witnesses described hearing calls for help from Keane before seeing a pool of blood in the water.

    "I paddled to him," witness Chad Hammel said. "And there was a big wake of blood behind him. His entire back was open. The shark hit him in the clavicle. The shark’s top teeth got him in his cheek."

    Ellie says Keane was able to swim to a nearby kayak and three men on board, among them an off-duty police officer and lifeguard, pulled him out of the water and got him to the beach. He was then life-flighted to Rady Children's Hospital in Linda Vista.

    “You or I, we probably would have swam to the shore because we know the shark doesn’t go ashore, but he had his wits about him," Ellie said at a news conference from the hospital Monday afternoon. "He knew that there were men in a kayak away from shore and that’s amazing to me. And I will never question his wits again. Ever."

    Keane remains in serious condition at the Intensive Care Unit at Rady's, according to Chief of Pediatric Surgery Dr. Tim Fairbanks.

    Honoring the family's wishes, the only detail about Keane's injuries Fairbanks revealed was it was a "very large shark bite."

    "[The bite was] very deep, down to the chest wall through the muscles. It was a very large injury. He was lucky in that no vascular structures were injured in the initial attack," Fairbanks said.

    Fairbanks said Keane's condition is improving, but doctors are still monitoring several situations. Possible infections and Keane's blood count are among the medical staff's chief concerns.

    Ellie said Keane was alert and talking on Monday and had a chance to enjoy a donut and a cup of noodles.

    “He’s very brave, he’s very strong, athletic. He’s a warrior," she said of her 8th-grade son. 

    Ellie did not go into detail about the attack, saying it was Keane's story to share however he sees fit once he recovers.

    "I just want to say thank you to all three [kayakers]. Without what they did we would be having a whole different scenario," she said. "Keane has been asking for them. His eyes haven’t welled up until he’s asked for the people who saved his life."

    Fairbanks said the men in the kayak and other Good Samaritans who helped apply pressure to Keane's wounds on the beach before paramedics arrived deserve partial credit for saving the boy's life.

    More than that, though, Fairbanks said Keane is alive because "He made a decision to survive and got help.”

    “Given the choice, he sought help," Fairbanks added. "The help was given to him, they got him to the beach and they started providing care. They applied pressure and the brought him here... He made a decision immediately to take action and save himself.”

    Fairbanks said the care provided to Kenane immediately after the attack should serve as a reminder for everyone to apply pressure to major injuries.

    Both Ellie and Fairbanks said the community's support for Keane has been a big help.

    "We can feel the love, we can feel the support," Ellie said. "We are very, very lucky and we’re very blessed. We’re just blessed to have him.”

    Fairbanks became choked up at several points during the news conference as he talked about Keane and his family.

    “This family and this child are special. He’s just a special person," Fairbanks said. "Fifteen minutes ago as we prepared for this, the family was concerned about the other families in the pediatric intensive care and what they were going through.”

    He said he couldn't think of a better kid for the community to rally behind.

    Ellie said that right now, prayers and positive thoughts for Keane are needed most.

    She said Keane is eager to recover and get back to doing the things he loves, like playing baseball and playing in the ocean.

    “He said 'Mom. The chances are so much more slim of a second bite.”

    San Diego County Sheriff’s Department deputies on Saturday cited an Encinitas resident and former lifeguard for flying his drone into an area reserved for a medical response helicopter. Deputies say the pilot had to circle the landing area before picking up Keane.

    The water from Ponto Beach in Carlsbad to Swamis in Encinitas was closed for 48 hours and reopened at 7 a.m. Monday.

    "At this time there have been no reports from the public or any public safety officers of any shark activity in this area, so we want to make this loud and clear to everybody. And this is very, very unfortunate and very infrequent, this is a significant event for us but at the same time, it's very rare," Encinitas Marine Safety Captain Larry Giles said.

    Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab Director Chris Lowe and his team are using new techniques to help Encinitas lifeguards identify what type of shark bit Keane.

    "We're working very closely with the Encinitas lifeguards to try and sort out what species was involved, the size of the shark and more about the behaviors so we can better advise the public," Lowe said. 

    So far, the animal has only been described as 11 feet long.

    The team is taking swabs of Keane's wetsuit to identify DNA from the shark. If the shark is spotted again, the water can also be tested for DNA, Lowe said. 

    "We hope to have some DNA evidence back in the next week that might help us confirm what kind of species it is," he said. 

    After the attack, the beach was full of signs saying the area was closed to swimmers and lifeguards were on wave runners actively warning people to stay out of the water. Encinitas Lifeguards said people were stealing the signs and they had to order about $800 worth of replacements. 

    Despite the closure, surfers were seen in the water at Swami's Beach Sunday morning.   

    The shark has not been seen since the attack, though there were non-threatening sharks in the water, Giles said at a 4 p.m. news conference Saturday. 

    The Carlsbad Police Department is using a drone to look for any sharks that may be a threat and Encinitas Lifeguards are scanning the waters on jet skis. 

    Other agencies helping with the investigation are California State Park Lifeguards, Solana Beach Lifeguards, the San Diego Sheriff's Department, Encinitas and Carlsbad fire departments and the U.S. Coast Guard is aware of the incident. 

    In April 2017, a woman was attacked by a shark in the waters off San Onofre State Beach near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The last time a shark attack has been deadly in San Diego County was in Solana Beach in 2008. 

    A Go Fund Me page has been created to help with Hayes medical bills. 

    Editor's Note: A previous version of this story erroneously said Rady Children's Hospital was in La Jolla. It is in Linda Vista.