Diver unhurt when shark bites through his wetsuit off La Jolla

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Three divers had a close encounter with what was believed to be a sevengill shark near La Jolla’s Children’s Pool on June 6, San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum said Wednesday.

One of them was attacked, with the shark’s teeth cutting through his wetsuit, though he was not injured.

Justin Schlaefli, 28, posted on SharkAttackSurvivors.com that he "(felt) this sudden pressure and movement on my calf. I looked down and the shark had my calf in its mouth and bit down three times. This is the strange part: I am not sure if it was because the shark had realized it had missed the calico (its obvious target) or because it tasted neoprene, but the shark was biting me a bit like a dog who is playing with you and bites your hand.''

The incident occurred "about 2:30 p.m. when three divers were involved in spearfishing right at the wall at Children’s Pool,” said Lerum. “They had caught some fish and had them on their belts and were bringing them back about 50 feet off the wall when they believe they saw a sevengill shark come by and went to grab the fish.”

Lerum said the diver reported the shark “took a chunk out of his wetsuit,” but added he was not seriously injured.

“His friend shot the shark and the fish swam away causing his spear gun to be ripped out of his hand,” Lerum said. “They came to the beach to tell the lifeguards because they wanted them to be looking out for the spear gun.”

San Diego Channel 6’s website identified the diver whose wetsuit was bitten as Justin Schlaefli, 28. Another of the divers was identified as Roman Castro, 30, of Mission Valley.

Lerum said lifeguards believe it is likely the shark involved was a sevengill because of its markings described by the divers, and because it is a species known to be somewhat aggressive.

The number of local sightings of sevengills has increased, said Lerum, though he wasn’t sure that was because there are more of them or because water users are more aware they’re out there and are looking out for them.



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