Houston model bitten while swimming with sharks in Bahamas

By James Grant, NBC News

HOUSTON - Katarina Zarutskie was floating calmly in the ocean off the Bahamas' Staniel Cay last month when she suddenly felt her arm being yanked down.

Zarutskie, a 19-year-old nursing student at the University of Miami from Houston, had been swimming with nurse sharks while on vacation with her boyfriend and his family when one bit her arm and started to drag her under the water. 

NBC News reported her boyfriend's father took several photos throughout the attack, capturing the exact moment that Zarutskie came in contact with the 5-foot-long shark.

"He had my wrist in his mouth and I could feel his teeth sinking into my arm," Zarutskie told NBC News on Monday. 

She also told WPLG, “All of the sudden it felt like 15 different people were squeezing on my wrist really, really hard.”

Zarutskie said she was pulled underwater for a few seconds and then ripped her wrist out of the shark’s mouth as fast as she could. She was able to swim to some nearby steps to get out of the water.

Once out of the water, Zarutskie went to a clinic at the marina and had her wound cleaned and wrapped.

After doing some research and learning about the high risk of infection following a shark bite, she elected to fly back to Florida the next day for additional treatment.

“(The doctors) now believe that I still have pieces of the shark teeth in my arm and I will forever have a scar,” Zarutskie said.

Zarutskie, who is also an Instagram model, was concerned about the injury affecting her career, but feels thankful to be alive.

“I am so fortunate that I still have my arm and my life,” she said.

David Hocher, owner of Staniel Cay marina, said people do get bitten from time to time.

“These animals are considered quite docile, but can and do bite on occasion,” Hocher wrote in an email to NBC News. “Normally when they mistake a hand or fingers for a piece of food.”

Hocher sent NBC News a photo of a sign at the marina titled “SCYC Nurse Shark Policy,” which warns visitors about swimming with the sharks.

Zarutskie said she did not see the sign. 

Hocher wrote that it appeared Zarutskie was in the water during feeding time and that her outstretched arms and exposed fingers would have been tempting for the sharks.

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