When something bumped Lyn Jutronich in the Pacific Ocean off Del Mar, California, on Nov. 4, she knew what it was.
The Fairview native and former District 10 competitive swimmer has been swimming her whole life, and swimming in the Pacific since moving to California in 1996.
"I knew immediately when I felt that bump. The only thing that's going to bump you like that, charge you like that, is a shark," Jutronich said. "I thought, 'I'm going to get bit.'"
Jutronich, 50, suffered deep puncture wounds and gashes in her right thigh and now is recovering at her Solana Beach, California, home.
"I'm doing well, but I may be just stuffing my feelings down inside," she said. "It's very possible that I'm just not dealing with it at this point."
Jutronich was fortunate. A Millcreek woman, Caroline DiPlacido, 58, was killed by a shark in the Bahamas on Sept. 6. The longtime Gannon University employee had been on a vacation cruise and was snorkeling with family members when she was attacked.
'I knew I was going to get bit'
Jutronich was relaxing for a time with a swim partner about 250 or 300 yards offshore when she felt the bump. She is part of a group that regularly swims off the Del Mar beach, north of San Diego.
"We had to go farther out than usual because the break line (where waves break) was farther out," Jutronich said. "There were also rogue waves that come in between the wave sets and break farther out. We had to swim out where we weren't going to have waves breaking on us as we were trying to swim."
The friends relaxed for a time before heading back to shore.
"We rested a couple minutes, treading water, talked a bit and waited for our pulses to get down," Jutronich said.
Then came the bump.
"I felt it come up from underneath, pushing me up and back a little bit," Jutronich said. "It's a prey maneuver, a bump and bite. I knew I was going to get bit."
She looked down and saw the shark on her thigh. Jutronich isn't sure if it had already bitten her or was just closing down before it shook and released her.
"I turned to my partner and said, 'David, I've been bit, I've been bit. We've got to get to shore.'"
'Get to shore, get to shore, get to shore'
The two swimmers got onto their backs, arms linked, watching for the shark, and backstroked to shore. Linked together, they knew, they would look like a single, larger target that a shark might bypass.
"I knew I had been bit but had no idea how injured I was. I just knew I had to get to shore to be assessed," Jutronich said. "The swim in (to shore) was indescribable. I knew I was bleeding and that there was a shark out there that was willing to bite at least once. Survival instinct just kicked in, and it was, 'Get to shore, get to shore, get to shore.'"
A lifeguard spotted the two swimmers just after 10 a.m. as they were heading back to shore, said Jon Edelbrock, lifeguard chief for the city of Del Mar.
"She had a diligent swim buddy," Edelbrock said of Jutronich. "They both maintained their composure quite well."
Jutronich "soldier crawled" onto the beach where a lifeguard cut away her wetsuit.
"The first thing he told me was, 'You're not bleeding a ton. You have wounds, but I think you're going to be just fine because it hasn't hit an artery.' As soon as he said that, I felt a lot better," Jutronich said.
Jutronich was hospitalized for five days while doctors treated her wounds and administered antibiotics to guard against infection. Now home, Jutronich is being treated by visiting wound specialists who regularly "vacuum" the sealed wounds to keep them clean and drained, increase circulation to the area and reduce pain.
"I don't feel much pain at all," Jutronich said. "I'm going to have some pretty major scars, but I don't care about that."
Jutronich is the daughter of Lynn Askey of Fairview. She is married to Craig Jutronich and is the mother of three children, Dougie, 17, Jason, 15, and Sabrina, 12. She works part-time guiding students through the college and medical school applications process.
Shark numbers multiply but bites are rare
The shark that bit Jutronich is believed to have been a white shark, also known as a great white shark, made infamous in the movie "Jaws." The population of juvenile white sharks is growing in southern California, according to the Ventura County Star, which in June reported five times more sightings of the sharks by lifeguards from 2017 through 2021.
The sharks rarely bite humans, according to research by the California State University-Long Beach Shark Lab.
"Although we observed a 187% increase in the number of people using southern California beaches for recreation since 2020, there has not been an increase in shark bites in southern California," the Shark Lab reported.
White sharks, when they do attack people, often "sample bite" and then release, according to National Geographic.
Well-known in Erie competitive swimming
Jutronich, then Lynda Askey, was a competitive swimmer at Fairview High School, where she went to school with now-Fairview swim coach J.R. Jensen. She won a QUAD games swim competition while still in high school.
She was a lifeguard for several years at Presque Isle State Park, where she won a 1,000-meter distance swim, besting male and female competitors, in the 1993 lifeguard Olympics. She also swam competitively for Yale University.
What lies beneath coastal waters: Beware of sharks swimming closer to shore
Jutronich (Askey) was inducted into the Erie County Aquatic Hall of Fame in 2002.
For now, Jutronich isn't sure if she will swim in the ocean again once her wounds heal.
"I'm not completely crossing it out, but I don't know how I'll feel when I get to the beach," she said. "I would like to. Swimming has been a huge part of my life since childhood. But I just can't answer that question right now."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Valerie Myers at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Fairview native, Lyn Jutronich, recovering from shark attack in Calif.