California native Katarina Zarutskie grew up doing water sports and had seen photos online of people swimming with nurse sharks, which Exuma Online deems “typically harmless to humans.”
But the 19-year-old Instagram model and University of Miami student still had a frightening experience with one during a Bahamas trip last month, and she tells BuzzFeed she feels “very, very blessed and fortunate” she came out of it relatively OK.
The BBC reports she’d finished lunch one day on Staniel Cay with her boyfriend and his family when they came upon people snorkeling with nurse sharks. Even though her boyfriend’s family was nervous for her, Zarutskie decided to try it herself.
Except as she was floating on her back, surrounded by dozens of sharks, one of them chomped down on her arm near her wrist, and pulled her under.
Her boyfriend’s father happened to photograph the entire incident; see his photos here. Zarutskie managed to wriggle free, but she knew if she thrashed around and dripped blood in the water, she might attract more sharks—so instead, she calmly stood up, grasping her wound to stanch the flow of blood, and was able to get of the water.
Stitches and antibiotics were all that was needed to fix her up—though there are still shark teeth fragments in her arm, and she’ll likely have scarring—and Zarutskie doesn’t hold a grudge against the shark.
“They are wild animals and it’s an uncontrollable situation,” she tells BuzzFeed.
She’s since made her Instagram account private, however, due to “rude and hateful comments” from people who think she somehow was to blame for the attack, per the BBC.