A brave teen who survived a frightening shark attack off the Florida coast returned to the ocean alongside researchers to swim among the ferocious animals.
Ella Reed, 13, had been sitting with friends in shallow waters last month near a jetty at Fort Pierce Beach, about an hour drive from West Palm, when a four-foot bull shark suddenly sank its teeth into her side.
The bloodied teen managed to fight off the beast by punching it in the face and using her arm to shield her stomach. She received 19 stitches on her stomach, arm and leg as a result of the harrowing encounter.
Reed, however, had no plans to remain landbound and jumped at an invitation from researchers at Nova Southeastern University to join them Friday on a shark tagging expedition, Today reported.
“When I received the invitation to go shark tagging, I was super excited,” Reed, a rising 8th grader and aspiring marine biologist, said.
Research scientist Derek Burkholder said his team believed Reed was due for a more positive experience with infamous underwater predator.
“We thought that maybe that first interaction wasn’t quite the best,” Burkholder said. “We would like her second interaction with a shark to be a much more positive one.”
Reed helped tag the sharks’ fins and tossed them bait, but she also dove into the waters to splash around with the beasts — even petting the nurse sharks and a giant tiger shark that swam past their boat.
“Tagging the sharks was super fun,” Reed said. “It was a lot better than the other time I had an experience with another shark.”
Ella’s mother, Devin Reed, said she hoped the experience would help guide her daughter in her future career.
“Now she’s able to see what marine biology — how you can put that to work and how you can make a difference,” she said.
The university offered a scholarship to the wannabe scientist to come study at the institution when she’s old enough to attend, Today reported.