Most of us have gone an extra mile or two to get that perfect Instagram shot. But not many can say they’ve actually been bit by a shark in the process. That’s what happened to Katarina Zarutskie, a 19-year-old model, while on vacation in the Exuma islands in the Bahamas with her boyfriend and his family. Zarutskie, who grew up near the ocean in California, spotted a pack of nurse sharks in the water and, knowing they’re generally docile, decided to get in the water with them to take a photo.
With her boyfriend’s dad on photographer duty, she got in the water and took a series of photos. She told the BBC that a “local resident” who was watching the photo session from the pier encouraged her to float on her back. She did, but within moments, a shark bit her arm.
"He had my wrist in his mouth and I could feel his teeth sinking into my arm," Zarutskie told NBC News. "I was pulled underwater for a few seconds and then ripped my wrist out of the shark’s mouth as fast as I could."
She stood up, raised her arm above the water and covered the wound to prevent blood from dripping into the ocean and attracting more sharks, and was able to make it to land without further injuries.
According to the Exuma Online, a tourist website for the island claims nurse sharks are “harmless to humans” and promotes swimming with them as a “once in a lifetime adventure.”
"These animals are considered quite docile but can and do bite on occasion," David Hocher, who owns the marina the incident happened in, wrote in an email to NBC. "Normally when they mistake a hand or fingers for a piece of food." Hocher added that Zarutskie appeared to have gone in the water during feeding time.
Predictably, the ordeal resulted in a wave of hateful comments and behavior towards Zarutskie online. She’s been accused of being a dumb blonde who is obsessed with social media. "They took the information they wanted and really spun the story in a way that I'm a stupid blonde Instagram model," she said. She claims she did not plan to post the photos to Instagram in the first place—and her account has, at the time of writing, gone private.
Zarutskie got stitches and antibiotics for the bite, and doctors believe she still has pieces of shark teeth in her arm. She will also always carry a scar.
"I am so fortunate that I still have my arm and my life,” she told NBC.
"You can't even predict how another human is going to react to situations, let alone an animal. I definitely will be thinking twice but it won't be scaring me away!" she told the BBC.