‘I punched great white shark in the EYE to save my life after it dragged 30ft below the waves’


A MUM-OF-THREE has described the moment she escaped a great white shark by punching it in the eye after it dragged her 30 feet underwater.

Leeanne Ericson, 38, was swimming off Southern California’s San Onofre beach while boyfriend Dusty Phillips surfed nearby.

Leeanne Ericson was attacked while swimming off the coast of Southern California

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Leeanne Ericson was attacked while swimming off the coast of Southern CaliforniaCredit: abc news
Leeanne seen in hospital following the attack

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Leeanne seen in hospital following the attackCredit: abc news
She is thought to have been attacked by a juvenile great white shark

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She is thought to have been attacked by a juvenile great white sharkCredit: mediadrumimages/DickieChivell/@dickie_chivell

Speaking about the 2017 incident for National Geographic’s annual two-week Sharkfest season, she described the moment she realised something was in the water beneath her.

 “It was so beautiful that weekend. The water was so blue and sparkly,” she said.

“We had noticed a sea lion had surfaced to my left and looked right at us, and I looked at my fiance Dusty and said, ‘That sea lion looks a little panicked to me’.

“And right away he dipped back down under. So I started to swim towards the shore.”

Within seconds, the shark clamped onto the top of Leeanne’s right leg and began to drag her below the surface.

“As soon as it grabbed my leg, I knew what it was,” she said.

“I remember being pulled down and thinking about my kids.

“And I remember thinking about my fiance not knowing where I was or what was happening to me.

“I went maybe 25-30 feet. I could notice the light change and it was getting darker and darker the further I was going down.”

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‘A SCREAM I’D NEVER HEARD’

Dusty described paddling nearby when he heard Leeanne scream.

“It was a piercing scream I’d never heard. And it disappeared, mid-scream,” he said.

“I turned around as quick as I could and there wasn’t even a ripple. Where the f**k did she go?”

The animal that attacked Leeanne is thought to have been a juvenile great white, and experts say it probably mistook her for a sea lion.

She managed to struggle free only after clawing at the shark’s face and punching it in the eye.

“My whole hand went into his eye, and I stuck it in as far as I could,” she said.

“It was super soft, it felt like I’d put my hand into a cup of jelly.

“The shark jerked away from me, and I was swimming to the surface.”

After Leeanne made it back to the surface, Dusty pulled her onto his surfboard and paddled her back to the shore, where an air ambulance was already waiting for her.

One paramedic described how she “wasn’t even really bleeding any more” because she had already lost so much blood.

Leeanne spent nine weeks in intensive care following the attack and underwent eight surgeries to repair the damage to her leg, racking up “millions” in medical bills.

She still has no feeling in her leg and had to learn to walk again, but said she is just thankful to be alive.

The documentary series comes just days after 15-year-old Mani Hart-Deville was killed in a shark attack while surfing off the coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Leeanne smiles as she recovers in hospital

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Leeanne smiles as she recovers in hospitalCredit: abc news
Dusty looks at a torn up part of Leeanne's wetsuit

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Dusty looks at a torn up part of Leeanne’s wetsuitCredit: abc news
Leeanne and Dusty in the water together

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Leeanne and Dusty in the water togetherCredit: abc news





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