WACO, Texas (KWTX) Dr. Steve Cutbirth, a restorative dentist from Waco, was free diving and spear fishing with his son-in-law Will Powers in the Bahamas. He had just caught a fish when a bull shark bit him on his face and leg.
It’s a day Dr. Cutbirth and his family will never forget.
They had been coming to the island of Green Turtle Cay for nearly 30 years, and they were no stranger to spear fishing. In fact, Dr. Cutbirth's son-in-law is the editor of Spearing Magazine.
Even to this day, Cutbirth doesn't blame the shark for what happened because the shark was just trying to get to the fish he had caught.
He just happened to be in the shark's way.
“And just kaboom something hit me in the side of the face,” said Cutbirth, “and I could not imagine what it was because I was in the middle of the ocean.”
Cutbirth showed News 10 his equipment, which included a face mask, a cap, and the slingshot he used to launch his spear with. He pointed out the damage his mask and cap endured during the attack.
“It ripped my mask off and you can see where it got me right in the nose and then perfect claw marks right on the mask,” said Cutbirth.
Dr. Cutbirth said at first he didn’t realize he was under attack; he described the initial feeling as if something was just bumping him repeatedly. It wasn’t until after his mask fell off that Cutbirth realized he was being attacked by the shark.
“I look up without a mask but I can see right here this shark head and all these teeth,” said Cutbirth. “I'm 6'1”, 190 lbs. and it's bigger than I am.”
The shark first bit his face, then his knee. He described the attack as having a surreal rhythm.
“It almost felt like we were dancing,” said Cutbirth. “We would separate and then, here we went again.”
Dr. Cutbirth said he was calm as he swam up to the surface. When he reflected on what happened, he noted he didn’t feel what he did wasn’t an act of courage, but of instinct.
“You're not brave, it's not brave, it's just prehistoric dinosaur instinct he is doing,” said Cutbirth, “and I am trying to not let him do what he is trying to do.”
Powers, who shot the video with his GoPro camera, remembers the moment Dr. Cutbirth resurfaced.
“I could see that there was blood all down his face and dripping onto his shirt,” said Powers.
Once Cutbirth, Powers, and a friend who went with them to the area figured out what the injuries were, they drove their boat 45 minutes back to Green Turtle Cay to seek medical attention. Powers said his father-in-law took his injuries in stride.
“You know, Steve is a tough dude,” said Powers. I said ‘Steve I think you're okay aside from some serious cosmetic wounds’ and the first word out of his mouth was ‘cool’”.
When they got to the clinic, the only nurse on the island had never treated a shark bite wound.
So Dr. Cutbirth, who was familiar with surgery, coached her through more than 30 stitches in his face and knee.
“I knew if I had someone who could just get the pieces together we could stay and finish our vacation," said Cutbirth.
They finished their vacation, and Dr. Cutbirth said he has never had a beard before but cannot shave while the wounds heal.
He says he has condensed the story down to about one minute to tell all his patients or else he would spend the whole day talking about the time he was bitten by a shark.