Above, Erik Norrie, 41, is back at work after a near-fatal shark attack.
Photo by BRIAN GOFF
Erik Norrie shows the gash that is still visible on his leg from the shark bite 6 weeks ago.
SEMINOLE – You would think that if you were bitten by a shark, twice by monkeys and a rattlesnake and lived to tell about it, that you were a lucky person. Erik Norrie, who experienced all that, said he’s not so much lucky as he is blessed.
Norrie, 41, of Seminole, had his latest mishap occur six weeks ago in the Bahamas when a 5-foot shark took a chunk out of his leg and nearly killed him. The story has the makings of a television movie.
“My family and I were picnicking on a sand bar offshore. It was a beautiful day with clear, beautiful water,” he said. “I decided to see if I could get something for dinner so I put on my mask and snorkel and dived down. Sure enough I speared a grouper and was heading back to the boat when I felt a tremendous blow to my leg. I managed to kick myself up to the sand bar in shallow enough water to stand up and when I did there was blood squirting in three different directions.”
Norrie’s wife, Spryng, saw the whole thing.
“I was on a paddle board out in the water. It was pretty scary,” she said. “My world was turning into a television show right before my eyes. The water was turning red, it was pretty scary.”
Norrie said at that moment he wasn’t scared at all. He said his faith took over.
“I’m a Christian and I’d have to say at that moment the Norrie switch turned off and the Lord’s switch turned on,” he said. “I managed to get the tubing off my spear gun and use it as a tourniquet around my leg to stop the bleeding. My oldest daughter Haley, who is 18, got on the radio and called for help. By then I was able to crawl out of the water onto the rocks to get away from the shark and get my leg out of the water.”
Norrie, the CEO of a Clearwater yacht refinishing company, said he wasn’t alone; his father-in-law, Rick Martin, stood between him and the shark and his friend Dave Fox kayaked over to help him get back into the boat. And nearby others came to help including a vacationing trauma doctor. Together they made him comfortable and headed to a small clinic about 10 miles away.
“As we were running the doctor said to my wife that it didn’t look good. I had lost a lot of blood. I thought I was going to die; my arm turned really gray.”
It was then, Norrie said, that a miracle happened, at least as far as he was concerned.
“Just then it was as if God touched me on my head, I have never felt anything like it before. It just didn’t make sense how I could have perfect peace. Then I knew everything was going to be all right. It was just one miracle after another.”
After spending several hours in the clinic in the Bahamas, Norrie was eventually flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami where he spent two days and had surgery. Then he was moved to Tampa General Hospital, where he had more surgery.
The shark had bitten a chunk of his leg 7 inches by 9 inches and 2 inches deep.
“Here it is, six weeks later and no crutches and no walker; I am doing good,” he said.
Norrie said experts have told him the shark attacked him because it perceived him as a threat because he had taken food from its territory.
The shark not only got a chunk of Norrie’s leg, but it got the grouper too. Norrie let that go as soon as he was bitten.
That adventure was only the latest in a series of run-ins Norrie has had with wild animals. Monkeys have bitten him, twice. Here is his story of the first instance.
“A few years ago we were visiting an iguana farm in Honduras and we noticed the lady had a monkey in a cage nearby. While I was looking at the monkey my wife was talking to the lady and asked her if I could go inside the cage with the monkey. The woman told her the monkey was a little crazy. My wife said that’s OK, my husband’s a little crazy. Then she called out to me that I could go in the cage.
“When I got in there the monkey went to town, he bit me on my chest. He grabbed my car keys and threw them at me and was hitting me. I got out of there with little damage but it was interesting for a while.”
After that you might think Norrie had learned a lesson. Not so it seems.
“The second monkey bite happened in Rio De Janiero, Brazil. We came upon some monkeys sitting on a wall. It was obvious they were used to humans because they were eating out of a garbage can. So I made some goofy noises at them, and one of them bit me. Not much damage there either.”
But there was considerable damage done when a rattlesnake bit Norrie. It happened at the Seminole Lake Country Club in 1984 when he was in the 7th or 8th grade.
“I was walking along in the rough when the snake just bit me. I ended up spending two weeks in intensive care in the hospital. Luckily, when we went to emergency the doctor on duty was interested in snakebites, in fact it was a hobby of his. Others wanted to amputate my leg, but this doctor knew what to do to save it. It was the other leg from the shark bite.”
With all that behind him you might think Erik Norrie is a lucky man. He doesn’t think so.
“You know I would say I’m more blessed than lucky. I’m not a believer in luck. Good things are actually coming from this believe it or not,” he said. “One of my goals is to share my faith with as many people as I can and I’ve done many interviews over the past few weeks. Sharing my faith is the most important aspect of my life.”
Wife Spryng admits that living with her husband is quite a ride.
“He likes adventure. It makes life fun that’s for sure. I’m not quite as adventuresome though. In this case I believe the Lord was there from the beginning and there were miracles every step of the way,” she said.
But isn’t it time for a man many would consider very lucky to buy a lottery ticket?