Battered, man blames a shark
(Fayetteville Observer, July 17, 2008) Donald Griffin isn’t buying the official explanation for the brace on his neck and the bruises on his face.
Rescue workers who carried him off Carolina Beach on Sunday told Griffin that he had been struck by a dolphin.
“I told them don’t insult my intelligence,” Griffin said. “That was a shark.”
Recovering at his River Road home on Wednesday, Griffin winced as he recalled his harrowing tale.
Griffin, 52, said he was swimming with his 7-year-old granddaughters, who had headed up onto the sand. He was about to join them when he spotted a wave too tempting to pass up.
Griffin swam out — maybe 50 or 60 feet from shore — and was ready to ride.
Then, he said, came the dark shadow shooting up through the water.
Then came the impact and the sharp pain.
Then the water closing in over his head.
“I couldn’t move anything. So I said what I thought would be my last prayer right there on the ocean floor ... ,” Griffin said. “I told the good Lord, ‘If this is it, fine. Let it be it. If not? Get me out of here.’”
Griffin believes his prayer was answered. He washed toward the beach, where one of his granddaughters was screaming because she couldn’t see Griffin where she knew he should be. He said others on the beach rushed to his aid.
The occasional shark has been spotted off Carolina Beach this summer, said Cpl. Simon Sanders, director of Carolina Beach Ocean Rescue.
“But we don’t have any reason to believe that that’s what this was,” Sanders said.
It has been three years since the last shark attack at Carolina Beach, Sanders said, adding that incident involved a swimmer who recovered after being bitten on the arm.
Sanders said dolphins were seen in the area where Griffin was swimming shortly before and after his rescue. Dolphins aren’t usually a threat, he said.
“But we have noticed this season of couple of dolphins with calves,” Sanders said. “When they have young ones they can be more aggressive. But have we had a dolphin attack? No.”
Sanders said the ocean floor was not ruled out as a contributor to Griffin’s injuries, which Griffin said include spinal and nerve damage.
“We’ve got lifeguards down here who get cut on their faces from hitting the sandbar. I’m looking at one right now,” Sanders said, yelling “Nice forehead” toward one of the participants in a national lifeguard competition being held at Carolina Beach this week.
Griffin, thankful to be home, said he is reluctant to be in the spotlight but feels an obligation to let beachgoers know they are swimming at their own risk.
Griffin, who has been going to Carolina Beach for about 30 years, said he may not have had more than a split-second look at what came up through the water — but he felt it.
“I’ve taken some hits in my life, but nothing ever like this,” Griffin said. “I know what hit me, and it was a shark. A big shark.”
Staff writer Rebecca Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3582.