10-year-old bitten by shark on HHI talks about experience

Posted at 9:52 PM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 21:52:05-04

Monday, we brought you the story of a 10-year-old boy who was bitten by a shark while swimming at a Hilton Head Island beach Sunday. 

We sat down with Jei Turrell's family Tuesday. His mom says he showed nothing but faith and courage when it happened.

Jei has to live with a shark bite for the rest of his life after going to the beach over the weekend. He described the moments as shocking and as a dream. He couldn't believe it was him. After being bitten, he was airlifted to Savannah Memorial immediately and underwent an hour and a half long surgery. They say the shark bit down into the bone of Jei's forearm. He says he didn't feel anything. He just screamed, 'shark!'

"I feel fine. I'm just a bit sore but that's normal. I'm gonna be sore for a while but I feel totally fine. I'm just tired. I think I might go take a nap."

It was just a fun family day at the beach when Jei went for a swim with his oldest brother - until he went about waist deep into the water. 

"I was underwater and I see a shark's mouth, just, it was so quick it just got me and bolted it off and then I kind of picked it up and I was like, I yelled 'shark' and then I ran to my mom and she wrapped it up with a towel that was on her waist," Jei said.

It's a phrase you normally hear in movies, but Sunday, screaming 'shark!' in the midst of fear and tragedy became reality for the Turrell family. 

"It's just that first moment, you know. I froze as you could imagine and Tonya leaped up towards him and did her motherly thing and I grabbed him and I could just see blood everywhere," Jei's father, Paul Turrell, said. 

He was immediately airlifted to Savannah for surgery. 

'When he was on the helicopter, my worst fear, arriving there and them saying, 'I'm sorry. We did all we could do,' said Tonya Turrell. 

Tonya says doctors told her the shark's teeth cut all the way to the bone of Jei's forearm. 

"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 bitten,' and he goes 'no it's a dream, it couldn't have happened,' and he wasn't crying, which was amazing," Paul Turrell said. 

Jei is looking at the brighter side of things. He says he's alive and he will probably never meet anyone else who has the memory of a shark forever on his arm. 

"Everyone was so impressed with how tough he is."

Jei's parents say they warn other parents to be aware of going too far in the water, and they don't know when they will return to the beach again. Jei says he's looking at the glass half full. He's alive but he has a long road of recovery ahead. 

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.