San Diego

San Onofre Shark Attack Survivor Shares Story for First Time

On April 29, a shark attacked Leeanne Ericson at the beach in San Diego's North County as she swam alongside her boyfriend who was surfing

A San Diego woman wounded in a shark attack three months ago is sharing her story, describing what it was like to be grabbed by a shark off San Onofre State Beach.

Leeanne Ericson was swimming in the ocean around dusk on April 29 when suddenly, her life changed forever. 

On Friday, Ericson and her boyfriend, Dusty described the moment she was pulled under the surface of the water by a large shark. 

"I felt it grab me and pull me down," Ericson told Good Morning America. "I just remember thinking about my kids and him and then trying to push the shark off of me."

The shark, estimated at 10 feet in length, ripped through the back of Ericson’s leg, tearing out all the muscle from her knee to her hip and just missing her major arteries.

Ericson then describes her immediate decision to fight.

"I just started digging," she said. "I felt like I was digging out a cup of Jello."

They can only guess that she was touching the shark's eye, she said. 


She escaped with her life but suffered significant injuries and tremendous blood loss. Emergency crews airlifted her to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

There, two dozen medical specialists cared for her in the weeks following the attack. She underwent numerous surgeries and is now left with thousands of dollars in medical fees, despite having insurance she said.

Last month, Ericson wrote about her recovery on an online fundraising page established by her family to help cover her medical expenses. She talked about wanting to get better so she could be reunited with her children.

Ericson's mother, Christine McKnerney-Leidle also shared an update that Ericson had started walking, taking 40 steps in the hospital.

Ericson works for a local credit union, Pacific Marine Credit Union. The company has opened an account to collect donations to help the victim in her recovery. Donations can be made at any Pacific Marine Credit Union branch, or by mail. Checks can be made payable to:

“Support Leeanne”
C/O Pacific Marine Credit Union
1278 Rocky Point Drive
Oceanside, CA 92056

Her family also continues to run this GoFundMe page, which as of Friday, had raised more than $99,000.


Last year, there were an estimated 59 shark attacks across the U.S., according to data collected by scientists at the University of Florida.

The attack that changed Ericson's life took place at San Onofre State Beach, located off Interstate 5 at Basilone Road, about 3 miles south of San Clemente, California, and 58 miles north of downtown San Diego.

According to investigators, Ericson was camping with her boyfriend when the couple decided to go in the water. Ericson swam while her boyfriend surfed next to her at a favorite spot at the beach.

The victim’s mother said the couple saw a seal in the water and Ericson’s boyfriend turned to swim out to a wave. Just then, Ericson disappeared from the water’s surface.

The beach was closed to the public for several days following the shark attack. It reopened, but throughout May authorities issued warnings at the beach after reported shark sightings near the same area where Ericson had been attacked.


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