AN EDINBURGH schoolboy survived a ‘Jaws’ style shark attack… thanks to his rubber swimming shoes blunting the monster’s bite.
Shane McConnell suffered serious injuries to both legs when a vicious bull shark attacked him in a harbour on Bimini Island, in the Bahamas.
Doctors who treated him believe he could have suffered much more serious life-threatening injuries if he had not been wearing tough neoprene swimming shoes, which absorbed half the impact of the shark’s razor-sharp teeth.
Despite the protection of the thick rubber, Shane had to have 53 stitches inserted in his wounds and endured multiple injections of powerful painkillers.
He now faces being left physically and emotionally scarred for life by his ordeal.
The 12-year-old told how he he cried for help when he saw the deadly predator in the water beside him after he tripped and fell into the sea.
He said: “I was walking along the marina when it happened. I put my hand over my eyes to block the sun out because it was so bright, and accidentally tripped on a metal cleat and fell into the sea.
“I was scared, because I knew there were sharks around – I had seen the shadow of one earlier that day.
“I knew I had to get to the ladder, but my lucky cap had flown off my head and floated away.
“I swam to grab it and, when I was swimming back to the ladder, I saw half a shark’s body come out of the water.
“I saw its tail and fin – it was big and it was grey.
“I was splashing a lot, and I think it thought I was food thrown in for it.”
He went on: “I shouted for help when I saw it, but then it disappeared under me.
“I felt it brush my hand – I thought it had missed me.”
As he made his escape with adrenaline surging though his body, he didn’t notice that the vicious beast had circled round and sunk its teeth deep into his feet.
He said: “I swam to the ladder, and climbed out. All the security men on the docks were suddenly surrounding me.
“They laid me down, and wrapped white towels around both my feet.
“The shark had got me, but I didn’t know it until then.
“I wasn’t in pain. I couldn’t feel anything, but my legs were shaking a lot.”
Shane’s body, as is the case with many shark attack victims, had gone into shock – blocking the pain of his injuries at first.
His swimming shoes were shredded by large teeth marks, and there was blood pouring out of multiple bite wounds, with his tendons clearly visible.
He said: “The most painful thing was getting the injections at the surgery, and I couldn’t walk for a couple days after the bite.
“But I couldn’t feel anything when I was bitten, it wasn’t painful - just scary.”
His dad Jim, 56, a support worker for adults with special needs, was first to arrive at the scene.
He said: “I saw someone laying on the ground. I recognised the T-shirt and shorts and I knew it was Shane. I ran over, and immediately went into first aid mode.
“At first I thought he had climbed down the ladder to feed the sharks and actually started giving him a row.
“But then I saw his feet and the large puncture wounds, and saw the blood after the towels had been taken off. I realised it was serious.”
Shane’s mum Debbie, 48, a supermarket worker, arrived a few minutes later, after being told by strangers at the pool about a shark attack at the harbour.
She said: “I saw Shane’s blonde hair and his cap, and my legs turned to jelly. I started shaking and crying.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it, and I ran over to him and held his hand.
“Shane kept saying he was alright and reassuring me, but it was the adrenaline in him I think – that’s why he couldn’t feel any pain.
“I just kept thinking what could have happened. What if? He could have lost his feet or his legs, or worse, been killed.”
Despite the terrifying attack, the young survivor says he still wants to realise his dream of becoming a marine biologist.
He said: “David Attenborough is my idol, and I have watched Blue Planet many times. I watched it again on the plane home.
“Even after this, I am happiest when I’m in the ocean. The best thing is, now I’ll have a pretty cool scar to show people.
“This is just a good start… I mean, a bad start.”
Bull sharks can grow up to 12ft in length and can weigh 500lbs. They get their name from their flat snouts and unpredictable behaviour.
The aggressive beasts have 50 rows of teeth compared to five rows in other species – around 350 teeth in total – and will eat almost anything, including dolphins and other sharks.
Also known as Zambezi sharks, they are infamous for their attacks on humans in shallow waters.
A series of assumed bull shark attacks in the early 1900’s was the inspirational source for Stephen Spielberg’s blockbuster movie Jaws, which was first screened in 1975.