‘We feel blessed she survived.’ Woman bitten by a shark in the Keys fights to keep leg

A 35-year-old Texas woman who was attacked by a shark while with family in the Lower Keys a week ago is recovering from a large wound to her leg, her husband said Wednesday.

“All things considered, she is doing very well,” said Luke Bruns, who dove into the water to bring his severely injured wife back onto the pontoon boat on June 29. “She was in near perfect health before this.”

Lindsay Bruns, the mother of two girls, ages 7 and 5, has had 11 blood transfusions and three surgeries.

“The trauma team is hopeful for a full recovery,” Luke Bruns said in an email to FLKeysNews.com/Miami Herald on Wednesday.

“They have reconstructed all of her muscle and tissue on her leg,” he said. “We are now just waiting to see if it all survives. So far it is looking good.“

The update comes after terrifying moments described in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s incident report, which details the June 29 shark bite — a rare event in Florida, particularly in the Keys. FWC released the report Tuesday, nearly a week after the shark bite, and after not announcing the incident at all.

On July 1, FWC spokesman Jason Rafter confirmed a woman had been bitten by a shark but offered no details at the time.

Blood in the water

The Bruns family, of Flower Mound, Texas, visits the Keys every year. On June 29, they were out on a pontoon boat east of Sawyer Key on the Gulf side.

At about 8 p.m. — 20 minutes before sunset that day, according to the National Weather Service — they stopped to jump into the clear, calm water that ran about 10 feet deep, according to the report. The mother jumped off the boat’s top platform multiple times into the water. Then she did a flip.

That’s when her husband heard a huge splash — too big to have been made by his wife, he told state wildlife officers. He turned and saw more splashing and water spilling over and into the vessel.

Then he saw nothing but blood in the water. His wife emerged from the water screaming, “Help!”

Luke Bruns dove in and helped her to the boat’s ladder and onto the pontoon. “He saw the large wound on her right leg, consistent with a shark attack,” the report said.

With blood squirting from his wife’s leg, he used some rope as a makeshift tourniquet to try to stop the bleeding. He called 911 and was told to bring her to Tonio’s Seafood Shack on Summerland Key.

Officers help the family

Lindsay Bruns was left with a half-circle-shaped wound on her right leg, the report said.

“It extended from the top of her hip to just above her knee,” wrote FWC Officer Christopher Boley, who met the pontoon as it arrived and showed Luke Bruns where to park it.

“It appeared to be from a serrated impact, and there were puncture marks on her thigh, consistent with a shark attack,” Boley wrote.

Boley took out his FWC-issued tourniquet and applied it to Lindsay Bruns’ leg until paramedics arrived. He and other FWC officers helped place her onto a backboard and into the ambulance.

She was taken to Jackson South Medical Center in Miami-Dade on Monroe County’s Trauma Star helicopter air ambulance.

During the flight, she was given a blood transfusion, according to Kristen Livengood, a spokeswoman for Monroe County, and she was in stable condition when she arrived at the Miami-Dade hospital.

Most shark bites happen in the United States, and the state where most of them occur is Florida, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, which tracks annual shark bites worldwide.

FWC didn’t confirm what type of shark bit Bruns.

Typically, it’s smaller species of shark that mistake human limbs for prey but seldom leave life-threatening injuries. Florida had 28 shark bites last year, none fatal. Volusia County topped the list with 17 shark bites, followed by Brevard, Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties — all with two bites each, according to the ISAF.

Piper Bruns, 7, and her sister Rylan Bruns, 5, enjoy a day on the water in the Lower Keys on June 29, 2022. About 30 minutes after this picture was taken, their mother, Lindsay Bruns, 35, was attacked by a shark.

Grateful she survived

Bruns had never tied or even made a tourniquet before he used some rope on the boat to stop the blood rushing from his wife’s leg. He considers it a miracle that his makeshift tourniquet worked.

“We feel very blessed that she survived,” Bruns said.

After the shark bit her leg, Lindsay Bruns had to endure a 20-minute boat ride to shore where paramedics and other first responders were waiting.

“There are good people in the Keys,” Luke Bruns said, praising the response by first responders. His neighbors helped by watching the girls.

The Bruns live in Texas, but they have a home on Summerland Key that had belonged to Luke Bruns’ grandparents, and they share it with many relatives. Since he was a child, he has been spending time in the Keys, where his grandparents bought a place in the 1960s.

Luke and Lindsay Bruns got married in the Keys and have brought their children to the island chain every year since they were born.

Their girls, who learned to swim early on and have mastered snorkeling, love the ocean and Keys wildlife — the Key deer, sea turtles, dolphins and even sharks, Luke Bruns said.

“We still love the Keys,” he said. “We may be fishing from the boat a little more and doing a little less swimming and diving for a while, but we do expect that we will continue to make our annual trips.”

Luke Bruns said his family will recover and heal from the traumatic event.

“We will get through this together as a family and be stronger from it. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for her recovery.”