Metro-East News

‘I heard Michael scream’: O’Fallon boy bitten by shark in Florida

Michael Wilson on crutches after a shark bit his foot in Florida.
Michael Wilson on crutches after a shark bit his foot in Florida.

An O’Fallon 12-year-old is recovering from a shark bite last week.

Michael Wilson, who is in the sixth grade at Carriel Junior High in O’Fallon, was with his family in Florida on a trip that included visiting St. Louis Cardinals spring training. The family also decided to visit Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island Beach near Jupiter, Fla.

Michael, the son of Trenton and Deanna Wilson, was in about 3 feet of water when he felt something grab his ankle. He said he thought it was someone pulling a prank until he realized a shark had bitten him.

Deanna Wilson said she never saw the shark, which authorities believe was a blacktip shark.

“But I heard Michael scream,” she said. “At first, I thought he might have been joking. But, then I saw him push something away from him.”

The bite left Michael with a bruised foot and some lacerations, according to his mother, Kristy Alexander. But he is expected to make a full recovery.

“He is doing great,” she said. “Fortunately, his ankle was not fractured. But he will be on crutches for the next couple of weeks. He’s more excited for the Cardinals opening day in a couple of weeks.

Palm Beach Fire and Rescue paramedics took Wilson to Palm Beach Children’s Hospital. He was reevaluated on Monday afternoon at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.

Red flags were immediately posted along the beach, Deanna Wilson said, closing that portion of the ocean to swimmers.

Michael and his family were still able to attend two St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training games, where Michael was able to meet his favorite player, Matt Holliday. Holliday also signed Michael’s poster, which he made after being bitten.

Deanna Wilson said her stepson doesn’t want to swim in an ocean again.

“Michael was lucky,” she said.

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 69 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks at Palm Beach recorded from 1882 to Feb. 8. None of them were fatal.

The last time someone was killed in Florida by a shark was 2010 in Martin County, according to Lindsay French, program assistant of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Fla.

She said there are an average of 20 to 25 shark bites a year off the coast of Florida with a large majority involving blacktips. This is the time of year they head to the warmer waters off the coast. They’ll then head north for the summer, just like the snowbirds.

French said blacktips, which measure in length from 6 to 7 feet, weigh on average 66 to 220 pounds.

Wilson’s shark bite was the first reported in Palm Beach County in 2016, French said.

There were 30 shark bites in Florida in 2015, including two in Palm Beach County.