Boy describes Hilton Head shark attack: 'I'm dreaming, wake me up!'

Jei Turrell was bitten while splashing in waist-deep water along the South Carolina coast, according to the boy's mother.

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Tonya and Paul Turrell said their son showed nothing but faith and courage despite suffering such a horrific injury. Tonya said Jei was bitten in the right forearm while he and his brother were playing Sunday on Hilton Head Island.

"He is a trooper," Tonya said. "He is so brave."

Experts at the Florida Museum of Natural History confirmed the shark bite from photos of the wound but were not sure what kind of shark it was.

"I was underwater and I see a shark's mouth, and just, it was so quick. It just got me and bolted off the other way,” Jei said.

Jei said he screamed “shark!” and that's when his family rushed over and saw blood running down one of his arms.

"All he kept on saying, and I'll never forget it, is, 'I'm dreaming, I’m dreaming! Wake me up! This is a dream.' And we kept on saying, 'No, no, no, you've been bit,’" said the boy's father, Paul Turrell.

The shark's teeth cut all the way to the bone of Jei's forearm, but amazingly, his parents said he didn't cry.

He was airlifted to a hospital for surgery, and as he recovers, is keeping a positive attitude.

He said he's alive and now has the memory of the shark encounter on his arm, showing how tough he is.

Turrell said she wouldn't have let her children go into the water if she'd known about recent, frequent water evacuations in the Hilton Head Island area. According to Mike Wagner, operations manager for Hilton Head Island Shore Beach Service, those evacuations happen almost daily during the summer season. Some of them are for shark sightings or lightning strikes, but most are to bring in swimmers venturing too far out, Wagner said.

Several days before Jei was bitten, there were evacuations in the late morning and early afternoon after a shark was spotted swimming back and forth in shallow water in the area.

Sunday afternoon's incident was the first reported shark bite of 2018 on Hilton Head Island, according to Wagner. In 2017, there were 10 confirmed shark attacks in South Carolina. Of those, eight were on Hilton Head Island.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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