A diver has opened up about the horrific injuries she sustained after a shark caught her near a tourist-induced feeding frenzy.
American tourist Heidi Ernst, 73, almost bled to death when a beast tore her leg as she climbed back into the boat after a dive in the Bahamas on June 7.
“There was blood everywhere,” she said The newspaper. “I was dying. I was about to bleed to death. I was afraid I was going to die and was in a lot of pain.”
Originally from Iowa, Ernst is an experienced diver and just celebrated her 500th dive earlier this year.
Each excursion took place off the coast of the island of Grand Bahama with the same operator she has worked with for 11 years.
The dive pro has plenty of experience with Caribbean reef sharks and described beautiful moments swimming alongside and above the creatures while admiring the beautiful marine life.
“They have shown no aggressive behavior toward divers,” Ernst said.
“They swim around us. We take photos of them. They don’t threaten us… they just swim up and sideways or across the surface. I never sensed any danger.”
Ernst and her crew were preparing for another normal dive on June 7 when a group of tourists caught their attention.
They noticed that the other group was hand-feeding the sharks, triggering a whirlwind of creatures scavenging for scraps of food on the surface.
The submersible cautiously waited for the event to subside and decided it was safe to get in once the sharks had dispersed.
The dive went smoothly and the group was able to enjoy the reef and take beautiful photos.
As they went up, everyone stripped off their gear and began to relax.
Ernst quickly jumped back for a final swim, but was targeted by the shark as she began to climb back onto the boat.
It yanked open her leg and shook its head back and forth before she was instinctively able to punch it and shake it off.
When she got on the boat, the instructor could see that the shark had severed her blood vessels.
His wife immediately called an ambulance while the instructor applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and did everything possible to keep her conscious.
“That’s exactly what you do when someone is in great need,” she said. “You hold them and comfort them and tell them, ‘Just stick with it,’ so you don’t drift off.”
“You were instrumental in keeping me alive. Everyone was.”
Ernst was taken to the hospital in Miami, but doctors had to amputate her left leg.
She said: “I made the decision with the surgeon to have my leg removed. It was obvious it couldn’t be saved.”
She said doctors agreed that saving the leg would not have been a “good idea” due to a widespread infection.
A GoFundMe was created to fund recovery efforts.
Despite the devastating injuries and changes, Ernst is confident she will carry on.
“Life will be a little bit different,” she said. “My life was different after my husband died. It was very different. And so it will be different again now.
“But you know, that’s life.”