Steve Bruemmer recalls a shark attack and the three heroes who saved his life
Steve Bruemmer entered the chilly waters off Lover’s Point a year ago for one of his frequent swims along the Pacific Grove coastline. He recalls it was a spectacular day, with warm weather, no wind, and calm water.
Little did he know it would be the last time he would swim in the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. A mile and a half into his swim, something hit him hard.
“Just 150 yards off the beach, I was bit and lifted up in the air and brought back down,” Bruemmer said.
A great white shark had attacked Bruemmer. He remembers vividly what happened next. “It drove me back under and spit me out. I was about maybe five feet underwater. It was light blue above me and dark black below me,” Bruemmer said. “It was in about 20 feet of water, and right next to me was the shark. I could see the left side of its head. It was an arm's length away, and I was looking at it in the eye, and it was looking at me.”
“And I thought in the moment: you're deciding whether to bite me again, aren't you? And I thought, look, I've got on a white hat, I'm wearing goggles. I'm not a seal. I taste like neoprene. Don't bite me again.” he said.
Bruemmer sustained severe wounds to his stomach and both legs. And as he lay in the water, unable to swim to shore, three strangers on the beach came to his rescue.
Heath Braddock is an experienced surfer who was at the beach teaching kids to surf when one of the parents told him of the attack. Braddock grabbed a couple of surfboards, jumped in the water, and headed toward the injured swimmer.
Braddock was joined by Paul Bandy, an off-duty police officer, and his wife Aimme Johns, a nurse. The couple was visiting from the Sacramento area.
“I got about 30 or so feet away from him and saw the pool of blood that was almost the size of a small car. Paul helped me get (Bruemmer) on the extra board I had. At that point, I was (thinking) we need to get him in as quick as we can,” Braddock said.
When they finally reached the beach, Braddock says he didn’t know if the swimmer would live. He still didn't know Bruemmer’s name.
The ambulance arrived within minutes and rushed Bruemmer to Natividad Hospital in Salinas, where they immediately began operating. It took less than an hour between the time he was attacked and the time he was at the operating table.
Bruemmer says he’s grateful to those three and all the others who helped save him that day. “You don't survive trauma without a whole bunch of people to help you,” he said. “We do stay in contact with the three who rescued me. We've been in text contact with many of the other people, including people at Natividad.”
As to whether Bruemmer will return to the ocean, he says probably not. “It was so terrifying and so damaging. I cannot go back in the water.”
Steve has recovered from many of his injuries and is able to walk.
Heath Draddock, Paul Bandy, and Aimee Johns will be honored for their heroism in a ceremony on June 24 at 12 p.m. The three will be awarded the Carnegie Hero Awardat Pacific Grove’s Lovers Point Park. The honor is given to individuals who risk death or serious injury to save or attempt to save the lives of others.