University of Portland alumnus Joseph Tanner (’10) was injured Monday in a shark attack off the Oregon coast, according to the Oregon State Police.
The 29-year old Portland nurse was surfing at Indian Beach (Ecola State Park) when a shark bit his upper thigh and lower leg. The attack occurred around 4 p.m., authorities say, about 15 minutes after Tanner first entered the water.
“He took a pretty big hit out there. Pretty gruesome injuries,” said surfer Jeff Rose in an interview with KPTV.
According to Tanner’s brother Noah Beck, Tanner physically fended off the shark by punching it in the gills.
“My brother told me he wasn’t on his board, arms on board, and the shark came and grabbed him in the leg with its mouth and pulled him underwater. And he punched the shark in the gills, the shark let him go, he got on his board and paddled in,” Beck said in an interview with KGW.
There were two other surfers in the water with Tanner at the time of the incident, according to the release: West Woodworth, 29, from Portland and another male from Portland, 42, who requested not to be identified. Woodworth recalled seeing Tanner flail in the water and then get back on his surfboard. Tanner then yelled for the others in the ocean to get out of the water.
The group was about 30 to 40 yards off the shoreline, but Tanner was able to paddle nearly all the way in, and with the other surfers’ help made it onto the beach.
Tanner is a trauma nurse at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and graduated from UP in 2010 with a biology degree, and again in 2015 from UP’s School of Nursing. Once on shore, Tanner began instructing those helping on the beach on how to treat his injuries, using his surfboard leash to make a tourniquet for his leg.
“He directed his own first aid, what needed to be done, he asked us a lot of questions, what we were seeing, if we saw spurting blood,” Rose said to KGW.
Tanner was stabilized on scene and was transported via air ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center according to a second news release from the Oregon State Police department. Tanner was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit Tuesday night after receiving emergency surgery.
Authorities have said they are unclear on what type of shark was involved in the attack, though the news release states that one of Tanner’s companions believed the shark to be gray and estimated the back of it (what he could see) to be around eight feet long. The last time a shark attack occurred in Oregon was 2013, according to two online databases. The November 2013 attack happened off Gleneden Beach in Lincoln County.
There are 16 species of shark found along the Oregon Coast, including great white sharks. There have been 27 shark attacks in Oregon since 1974. No one has ever died.
Three warning signs have been put up at Ecola State Park, but beaches remain open, according to KGW.