Shark bites San Diego woman in Puerto Rico bay - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Shark bites San Diego woman in Puerto Rico bay

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP/CBS8) — A shark estimated at 6 feet long bit a San Diego tourist earlier this week while she swam in a popular bioluminescent bay at night, doctors said Thursday.

The woman, identified as 27-year-old Lydia Strunk, faces several months of physical therapy and will remain hospitalized until the weekend, Dr. Ernesto Torres said.

The victim is a law student at the University of San Diego and is from Wendell, Idaho, said her mother, Patty Strunk, who arrived in Puerto Rico on Thursday.

The wound is about 12 inches long and runs from below her knee to the ankle, said Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, trauma director at the Rio Piedras Medical Center.

"It was like (the shark) tried to tear away," he said. "She has an imprint of all the shark's teeth."

Dr. Rodriguez told News 8 it's a miracle her injuries weren't more serious. He said they feared serious nerve damage at first, because Strunk couldn't flex her foot. After repairing four tendons, however, Strunk regained movement of her foot. She is expected to make a full recovery, he said.

Her mother said Strunk was doing much better, seeming to improve by the hour. She declined to go into details about the incident.

"Right now we are taking one day at a time to help her recover," Patty Strunk said. "... She has a great story to tell. (But) that's her story to tell."

The shark bite was confirmed by a marine biologist, but he could not identify the type of shark because no teeth were recovered, Torres said.

Strunk has declined to speak to the news media and does not want photos of her injury released, doctors said. Her parents are expected to arrive in the U.S. Caribbean territory Thursday afternoon, doctors said.

Strunk was one of 16 people kayaking late Tuesday in the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques, a tiny island just east of Puerto Rico. She jumped into the water with four other people when something hit the leg of the person next to her. Seconds later, Strunk was bitten, doctors said.

"The shark's mouth basically clamped over her calf," Rodriguez said.

The shark was likely curious, according to the biologist who analyzed the bite.

The bay attracts hundreds of visitors mesmerized by its glowing waters that are activated when microscopic organisms are disturbed. But its murky waters also serve as a nursery for several species, including tiger, nurse, reef and hammerhead sharks.

The Department of Natural Resources is investigating what company, if any, organized the kayak trip, spokeswoman Ana Maria Ramos said.

People are prohibited from swimming in the bioluminescent waters of Mosquito Bay to protect the ecosystem, and the company could face a penalty of up to $5,000 or even lose its license, she said.

Despite the regulations, kayak operators often allow visitors to swim there.

The shark bite was reported to the Florida Museum of Natural History, which records such statistics.

Shark attacks are rare in Puerto Rico. Only seven attacks have ever been reported, two of them fatal, with the last death occurring in 1924, according to museum statistics.

Dean Stephen Ferruolo of the University of San Diego School of Law released this statement to News 8: "It's always troubling to hear about an accident involving one of our students.  We wish Lydia a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming her back to USD School of Law soon." Classes start on Monday.

Strunk's former neighbor in San Diego says Strunk's family moved back to Idaho earlier this year. Strunk has interned at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, served as Vice President of USD's Amnesty International chapter, and has volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul's Homeless Village.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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