Shark Bite Left Woman Needing Almost 200 Stitches to 'Rebuild' Her Hand

A woman needed hundreds of stitches to "rebuild" her hand after a shark bit her off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ingo Schlueter and Melony Klein were snorkelling in Candle Reef at around 2 p.m. on August 2 when the attack happened, The St. Thomas Source reported. Schlueter said he was no more than 20 to 25 feet away from Klein when the 5-foot-long shark struck.

Schlueter wrote on Facebook the pair entered shallow and cloudy water, when she swam "inadvertently" over what they believed was a nurse shark. He shared the message beside a photo of Klein with her arm wrapped in bandages at a hospital.

"Her hand smacked the shark. The startled shark lashed out and clamped onto Leeloo's [Klein's] hand, wrist and forearm," Schlueter wrote. "In a brief reaction. Leeloo squeezed and kicked the shark. Then, braced her feet against the shark and ripped her arm out of its mouth. Yes, she's a badass."

Responding to a comment Schlueter said it was, "One hell of a bite. The shark was startled."

In an update posted August 5, Schlueter said surgeons at Juan F. Luis Hospital on the U.S. Virgin Islands spent four hours trying to "rebuild" Klein's hand. Her injuries required 100 stitches inside and 98 stitches outside of her left hand and wrist.

Schlueter said on August 17 that Klein's hand was "healing well but still a long road ahead before physical therapy."

He told the St Thomas Source: "She struggled with the shark for a bit and then the many years of New York self-defense classes kicked in, and she lifted her fins and started kicking.

"She ripped her hand out of the shark's mouth and most of the damage she has to her hand was due to pulling her hand out." Schlueter said the water was "covered in blood."

Schlueter said he wrapped Klein's hand in his swim shirt to ease the blood loss. He was unable to call 911 due to cell service issues, but was able to reach a friend who alerted the authorities.

"As soon as she seemed to be doing OK, I ran for it and pulled up the anchor as soon as I could and sped towards the marina," he said.

Klein is expected to make a "99 percent recovery", he said, and is able to wiggle her fingers and feel her fingertips.

According to National Geographic, such sharks are between 7.5 to 9.75 feet long on average.

Marine biologist Kelcie Troutman, environmental outreach coordinator for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources in the Coastal Zone Management Division with East End Marine Park, told St. Thomas Source the animal was likely a nurse shark.

"If you startle an animal, they will defend themselves. It is not a random act of them wanting to bite a random snorkeler," said Troutman.

A very happy reunion! Leeloo, has been isolated from her kids during the critical part of her recovery. Big day for her...

Posted by Ingo Schlueter on Monday, August 17, 2020
nurse shark, stock, getty
A stock image shows a nurse shark, the type thought to have bitten Melony Klein. Getty