Shark Watch: Triathlete dragged underwater during shark blitz: ‘You don’t have an arm…Why are you laughing?’

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A bull shark bolted from the deep toward the surface and slammed into a triathlete’s legs during an early morning workout. 

“It hit me about thigh-high. Came up from the bottom. I didn’t even see it,” Chuck Anderson told Fox News Digital about the 2000 attack. “It knocked me up out of the water a bit, and I started treading water. I hollered for Karen (his training partner) to go to the beach.

Anderson said he put his face underwater to see what hit him. “When I did, I saw the shark coming from the bottom at me again.”

“I threw my hands towards him, and he snapped and took all four fingers off my right hand,” Anderson said. ” I held my right hand up in the air, tried to back paddle towards the beach with my left hand … I saw all the blood around me, and I thought, ‘Oh goodness. This is not gonna be good.”

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As Anderson attempted his escape, he kept searching underwater for the shark. 

At this point, he said he was swimming in about 12-to-15-foot deep waters and was about 150 yards from the beach in the Gulf Shores off Alabama.

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The bull shark attacked again, Anderson said. This time it rammed him in the stomach. 

That was round three of a four-round bout. The shark circled Anderson and was poised for the kill shot. 

“This time, I actually saw the fin coming directly towards me in the water, and I started trying to make a plan,” said Anderson, who prepared to battle the shark if it got too close. 

But his plan backfired. 

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“I thought I pushed him off, but my arm went into the shark’s mouth, and he took me to the bottom,” Anderson said, “He swung me around. My shoulder and hip were all chafed and scarred. 

“When I was on the bottom, that’s when the good Lord and I had a conversation, and I asked him to get me back up to the surface, at least give me a chance to see my kids one more time.”

Call it luck. Call it divine intervention, but the shark pulled him to the surface. 

“I have no explanation for it, but the shark went to the surface with my right hand in his mouth,” Anderson said.

“My left hand was on his nose, and he pushed me directly towards the beach. I was going so fast. People on the beach saw it and said it looked like I was on skis.”

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Anderson said he ended up on the sandbar, about 10 yards off the beach, and “wiggled” away from the shark. 

He survived the four-round bout with a tenacious bull shark, a species known for its stout, powerful bodies and aggressive and territorial nature. 

“She said, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you don’t have an arm’ … and asked why I was laughing … I got attacked four separate times by a shark, and I’m standing here on the beach talking to you.”

— Chuck Anderson

Anderson remembers being harmless and laughing when he was finally reunited with Karen. 

“She said, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, you don’t have an arm.’ And she looked at me and asked why I was laughing,” he said. “I said I got attacked four separate times by a shark, and I’m standing here on the beach talking to you. 

“I can’t believe I’m alive … I should be dead.” 

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Anderson was rushed to a nearby hospital. He said he lost about two thirds of the blood in his body. Doctors were able to save his elbow. 

He spent 13 days in intensive care, where he underwent several surgeries. 

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With all the injuries and blood loss, Anderson said the “most dangerous” part of the attack was how long he spent underwater. He aspirated saltwater, which is common among scuba divers who inhale seawater mist that attacks the lungs. 

“When I got to the hospital, my fever went to 106, so they put me in an induced coma and kept me there for five days,” Anderson said. “They had to get that infection down. Once they brought me out of the coma, the recovery process could start.” 

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Hearing Anderson say he’s “lucky” and thankful seems perplexing, given how this attack unfolded.

But he said if the shark bit his stomach instead of ramming him, he would have been lights out; if the shark dragged him farther away from shore instead of toward the beach, he wouldn’t have made it back to shore.

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“There were just so many positive things that happened that day that allowed me to survive that I’ve never really felt sorry for myself because I knew how lucky I was,” Anderson said. 

“I’ve never held any animosity towards the shark. It’s their territory, and you know, I just appreciate the fact that I’m still alive.”

He still loves the beach. He still loves the ocean. “And I want people to continue to enjoy it,” he said. 

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Shark attacks are so few and far between that “it shouldn’t keep people out of the ocean.”

“I respect sharks. I’m not happy I lost my right arm to one, and if I run into that guy again, I’ll probably have some choice words for him,” Anderson joked.

“But you know, they’re part of the ecosystem, and if we affect that ecosystem, the oceans that we love will be affected, and I don’t want that to happen. I want people to respect the territory of the sharks.”