Medic saves shark attack victim with boogie board string

Vacationing medic Marie Hildreth used a boogie board string as a tourniquet for the 12-year-old's arm, and a string from a beach tent to stop the bleeding on her leg


By Ashley Morris
Star-News

OAK ISLAND, N.C. — Vacationing Charlotte resident and paramedic Marie Hildreth was throwing a football with family members in the Oak Island surf Sunday when someone ran down the beach yelling to get out of the water because of a shark attack.

"At first I was like, 'Whatever, a shark attack here?' " Hildreth said. Even when a crowd gathered around the victim, Hildreth's first thought was that the attack could just be lacerations and cuts like the attack on a girl reported Thursday at Ocean Isle Beach.

Emergency responders help a teenage girl following a shark attack in Oak Island, North Carolina.
Emergency responders help a teenage girl following a shark attack in Oak Island, North Carolina. (Image Steve Bouser/The Pilot, Southern Pines, NC/AP)

"But then when I got there and saw how severe the wounds were, muscle memory just kicked in and I went to work like I normally do," Hildreth said.

Hildreth created makeshift tourniquets for 12-year-old shark attack victim Kiersten Yow of Archdale, who had part of her left arm bitten off and injuries to a leg.

After she identified herself as a paramedic, she said, she worked with the victim's parents and other law enforcement and fire officials who arrived. Hildreth grabbed a boogie board string and used it as a tourniquet for Yow's arm. Another bystander grabbed a string from a beach tent, which Hildreth used to stop the bleeding on the victim's leg.

In a news release, New Hanover Regional Medical Center said Kiersten lost her arm below the elbow after the shark attack and suffered tissue damage to her leg. She was transferred to another hospital Monday for treatment after surgery at NHRMC.

Hospital and town officials credited Hildreth and other first responders with helping to save the lives of Kiersten and Hunter Treschl, 16, of Colorado Springs, Colo., the victim of a second shark attack minutes later and 2 miles away. Hunter is in New Hanover Regional Medical Center after surgery to repair his amputated arm.

Hildreth can be seen in news photos helping after the first attack, with a boogie board just above Kiersten's head. Those photos, which have circulated across the world via The Associated Press, were taken by vacationer Steve Bouser, an editor at The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines. According to the Shelby Star, Bouser and his wife described a normal beach scene that quickly turned into pandemonium.

Brenda Bouser told the Shelby Star the real heroes were those bystanders who took quick action.

"I'm not sure if it was her dad that brought her on the beach, but three young men and one woman swooped in and took over," Bouser said.

Then, describing Hildreth, Bouser said a woman who had a medical background was "barking orders for a makeshift tourniquet."

Steve Bouser began taking photos and documenting the quick action of the bystanders, the emergency responder's arrival and departure with Yow.

Hildreth, who has family on Oak Island and loves to visit, said the shark attacks will not keep her from coming back to Oak Island in the future.

"But I am just going to stay ankle-deep in the water this week," she said.

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©2015 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

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