Keane Webre-Hayes, the teenager who survived a shark attack in September, and three Good Samaritans whose quick action likely saved his life were honored Wednesday by the Mayor and City Council of Encinitas.
Keane, 13, was given the Mayor's Certificate of Bravery for displaying "bravery in the face of danger," in the Sept. 29 attack at Beacon's Beach.
The teenager was diving for lobster at when an 11-foot-long great white shark bit him, injuring his arm, face, ear, shoulder and back. Scars were visible on his left cheek Wednesday as he accepted his award.
His mother Ellie Hayes was watching her son from a parking lot on the bluffs above the beach and could hear her son's screams.
Keane called for help and swam to a nearby kayak where three men, two with first responder training, applied immediate first aid and brought him to shore.
“He had the good sense to think ‘I probably can’t make it all the way to the shore because I might pass out,' and he swam away from the shore to the boat which was nearby and they were able to help him right away," Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.
Keane was rushed to Rady Children's Hospital in Linda Vista in critical condition and stayed there for several days.
At a press conference a few days after the attack, Rady Children's Hospital Chief of Pediatric Surgery, Dr. Tim Fairbanks, said the men in the kayak and other Good Samaritans who helped apply pressure to Keane's wounds on the beach before paramedics arrived deserve partial credit for saving his life.
More than that, though, Fairbanks said Keane was alive because "He made a decision to survive and got help.”
Mayor Blakespear said that Keane participated in the city's Junior Lifeguard program where kids are taught to remain calm in high-pressure situations.
"He was demonstrating a clear-headedness that is important, particularly for someone his age, but also probably rare," she said.
After receiving his certificate from the mayor, Keane wasted no time thanking the three men and the rest of the first responders who helped him that day, all of whom were present for the ceremony.
“Thank you, Matthew, Andrew, and Chad for just being there and talking me through it," he said. "Also, I want to thank Andrew for being in the water when there was an 11-foot great white shark swimming around."
He also thanked first responders worldwide who weren't didn't respond to the attack for their selflessness.
"They chose their job. They said ‘I want to help people,’ it didn’t choose them. It really means a lot to know that people want to do good," he said.
Mayor Blakespear proclaimed Nov. 28 in honor of Matthew, Andrew and Chad and their "quick thinking, bravery and selfless action."
"They did everything they could to get him to safety and to make sure that he was well, and that is something that we need to recognize," Blakespear said about the men.
In the days and weeks following the attack, the Encinitas community rallied for Keane in a way that inspired many.
A Go Fund Me page was created to help with medical bills, his youth flag football team fundraised, he was given a lifetime fishing license by the California Wildlife Officers Foundation, and "Good Morning America" even followed him to school on his first day back following the attack.