If You See a Fin, You Must Not Swim

If You See a Fin, You Must Not Swim

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2001 about why he won't ever go in the ocean again.

Summer 2001 is quickly becoming the year of the shark, as several shark attacks in Florida and the Bahamas are being reported in the media.

The most recent attack happened this past Thursday when the Associated Press ran the story "Shark Bites American in the Bahamas." I may not be up on the lingo of today's teenagers, but I'm pretty sure it hurts like mad to be bitten in the Bahamas.

In July, 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast's arm was bitten off by a seven foot bull shark in knee-deep water near Pensacola, Florida.

And just a couple of weeks ago, doctors amputated the left leg of Wall Street investment banker Krishna Thompson, after he was mauled by a shark while swimming at a resort beach on Grand Bahama Island. Thompson managed to free himself from the shark and drag himself to the shore.

On Tuesday, Thompson's wife Avemaria, and noted celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran said on NBC's Today Show that they were considering legal action against Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort. They accuse the resort's lifeguards of not helping Thompson until after he was out of the water.

Cochran said during the interview, "We're certainly investigating the circumstances. We think this is a preventable tragedy, you know, and we're looking at the [resort]. They had a duty, it seems to me, to warn their patrons when they attract [sharks] there. . . There's the role of the lifeguards, and whether or not the lifeguards failed to respond adequately."

There's an old joke about a lawyer who has to swim through man-eating shark infested waters to save his two companions, a priest and a doctor. The sharks descend upon the lawyer to devour him, but stop in time, and instead make a pathway to safety for him. The priest exclaims that they have just witnessed a miracle, but the doctor corrects him and says they have just witnessed professional courtesy.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard the Thompsons had hired Cochran, who defended OJ Simpson at his murder trial. Isn't it a conflict of interest for Cochran to be involved in a lawsuit involving other sharks?

Cochran has some pretty big Bahamas to blame the Our Lucaya Resort and call the attack "a preventable tragedy."

The only thing that truly made it preventable would have been a red flashing neon sign that said "DON'T SWIM IN THE FREAKING OCEAN! SHARKS LIVE THERE! DIDN'T YOU SEE JAWS?!" Also, if he had taken a vacation in Iowa instead.

I feel pretty sorry for Thompson after his encounter with such a ruthless, cold-blooded, man-eating killing machine. But I feel worse because his leg was bitten off by a shark.

Cochran is predictably using typical sleazy lawyer tactics by shifting the blame from his client (who shouldn't have put himself into that situation in the first place) to Our Lucaya Resort for the behavior and actions of an animal who pretty much runs on auto-pilot when it comes to eating. That's all a shark does: it swims and it eats. It doesn't even sleep.

However, the Our Lucaya resort defends its lifeguards and says they actually saved Thompson's life. "Our guests who witnessed the rescue from the beach are continuing to recognize the lifeguards, shake their hands and pat their backs for their exemplary efforts," general manager Eric Waldburger told the press on Friday. And since shark attacks usually happen quickly and without warning, there was nothing the lifeguards could have done to help Thompson in the first place.

Cochran's contention is that the lifeguards stood by and failed to rescue Thompson as he dragged himself to shore as his leg bled profusely. But what could they do? The shark had already done the damage when it clamped down on Thompson's leg, and Thompson freed himself by punching and striking the shark. All of this happened 15 feet from shore.

I feel badly for Thompson. He's lost his leg in a random attack by an animal that, when it attacks people, does so because it mistakes them for fish. There's no one to point fingers at, and no one to blame. Not the shark, not Our Lucaya Resort, not even Krishna Thompson. But leave it to Cochran to see if he can generate some publicity and legal fees from it.

Now the real feeding frenzy is about to begin.

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