Family members of the young woman attacked by a shark off the shore of San Onofre State Beach say she has a “rough road ahead.”
Leeanne Ericson was in a medically induced coma Sunday night at Scripps Memorial Hospital, her mother Christine McKnerney-Leidle told NBC 7.
“I can't imagine my daughter being in that water and the shark taking her under,” McKnerney-Leidle said through tears. “How scared she was. She must've been so scared, so scared.”
The attack happened Saturday shortly after 6 p.m. in a well-known surf spot nearby the San Diego County beach called Church. The surfspot is north of the now-closed San Onofre power plant near Basilone Road and Camp Pendleton.
The family was told the shark was 10 feet long. They don't know what type of shark it was.
The shark took the entire back of Ericson’s leg, missing her major arteries but damaging her nerve and tearing out muscle. It’s too soon to know what that means for the young mother of three, her parents said.
Ericson was camping with her boyfriend when she decided to swim while he surfed. She was comfortable swimming in the ocean, her mother said, since the family spent every summer surfing or swimming.
The couple saw a seal in the water and her boyfriend turned to swim out to a wave. Just then, Ericson disappeared from the water’s surface.
“She was gone. So he dived under to try and find her and couldn't find her,” Mark Leidle said. “He came up and the shark’s tail was sloshing in the water and she popped up and he grabbed her and put on the board.”
The surgeon told the family that if her boyfriend wasn’t there, Ericson would’ve died.
Good Samaritans rushed to help pull her to shore. One of the men had first aid training and used a surf leash to help slow down the bleeding.
Emergency personnel transported Ericson to a nearby hospital by helicopter.
Right now, doctors are watching Ericson for the potential of an infection or pneumonia from the sea foam she ingested in the attack, her mother said.
“At this point we’re just trying to keep her from getting any worse,” McKnerney Leidle said.
Once she clears those hurdles, the family is planning to help Ericson through months of recovery, possibly years.
Among the procedures she may face are reconstructive and plastic surgeries.
Walking will be a challenge.
“Her whole world is changed now,” her mother said. “All I can do is help her.”
As for the beach, it will be closed until Wednesday.
"Beach patrons are advised to heed warnings from local authorities to include Military Police, Area Guards and San Onofre Lifeguards as well as signage posted at the beach," the statement from Camp Pendleton’s Office of Communication read Monday morning.
Last year, there were an estimated 59 shark attacks across the U.S., according to data collected by scientists at the University of Florida.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Ericson.