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Monday, December 27, 2010
Kai Barger plays hero to shark attack victim


"It could have been any one of us," said Kai Barger

On Sunday, Kai Barger, Dusty Payne, Granger Larson and Tanner Hendrickson spent their post-Christmas morning out at a rarely surfed spot called Ledges, near the Kahului Harbor on the island of Maui. The morning session had reportedly been pretty all-time, but with a bit of onshore wind, the crowd had thinned out by mid-day. Just the same, the quartet opted to paddle back out and try to get a couple more photos with Maui-based lensman Eps Sargent. They were joined in the lineup by two other bodyboards.

On-beach medical treatment 15 minutes after the shark attack.

"It's a pretty sharky place, like all harbors. All of a sudden I hear one of the body boarders start screaming," tells Barger. "We just kind of went into survival mode after that. The guy's buddy was in shock, he was stunned. So we paddled over to get the guy and figure out what was going on. I looked down at his foot and there was blood everywhere. We had to get him to the beach immediately. So Tanner and I start towing the guy in. We had to fight hard against the rip. We were just heads down, digging. It probably took us 15 minutes to get him into the beach from the time we first heard him scream."

"It had been a good day. I had these great surfers out and was getting some nice photos, then out of nowhere everyone was scrambling in towards the beach all in a tight group. I thought shark, but never thought shark bite," adds Sargent. "I was shooting photos from pretty far away so it was hard to tell exactly what was happening, then they hit the beach and I could see them carrying a body. My first thought was, 'S---! One of the boys got nailed.' I went into race mode, sprinting down the beach to help. When I got there I was glad to see all my boys in one piece, but unfortunetly one of the young kids was laid on the ground bleeding pretty bad. Kai Barger had already taken all the steps to give him all the help he could."

Medics soon arrived on scene and the victim, a 16-year-old boy from nearby Kihei, was taken to the hospital for further medical assistance. His wounds were considered serious, but not life threatening.

Barger, saving lives and still getting the shot.

"If the shark had gotten Dusty, Granger, Tanner or me it would have been a career-ender, but I think because the guy that got hit was a bodyboarder and had fins on he was better off," says Barger. "The guy told me that the shark actually bit him twice, like the rubber fin he had on had kind of agitated it. That fin saved the kid's foot, for sure."

"I never got a chance to meet the young lad so I hope he has a speedy recovery and see we see him back in the surf soon," adds Sargent.

As for Barger and company's surfing plans in the immediate future? "The waves have been fun, we're out there today if it's still good," said Barger this morning. "I hope this won't keep the kid out of the water either. It was a freak thing, could have happened to anyone. But it is a good reminder that they're out there."