VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – Nine-year-old Jay Weiskopf has about 120 stitches after surviving a shark attack on Sunday in South Beach. He suffered a curved gaping wound from his right shoulder to his pectoral muscle.
The dental battery of the shark also left trails of cuts on his right arm and side. On Wednesday, Jay got an oceanarium perspective on marine life in Virginia Key.
The resilient boy with autism spectrum disorder said he had fun with dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium, which also houses sharks, stingrays, manatees, the world’s oldest captive orca, and other animals.
“We are just so happy that Jay is able to experience a positive interaction with sea life,” his mother, Kristine Weiskopf, said, adding that he really loves dolphins and penguins, and “we don’t want him to be afraid.”
The Miami Seaquarium staff worked to help save the Weiskopf family’s spring vacation after the traumatic experience off the beach on Third Street and Ocean Drive.
Right after arriving from Minnesota, Jay and his parents walked to the beach, east of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Ocean Beach Park’s playground, and north of the South Pointe Park Pier.
At first, there was nothing visibly menacing in the water. He was holding his mother’s hand. The waves were so small he was bodysurfing. Minutes later, the swift-swimming predator attacked.
His mother said they were in waist-deep water when she saw the 4-foot gray shark swimming away. She lifted him up and ran out of the water as fast as she could.
“At the time, I was in mom mode, and I didn’t even register the severity,” she said on Wednesday. “All I was focused on was getting him help.”
Miami Beach Fire Rescue personnel rushed him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. There was fear that he would have to deal with an infection or that the injury would affect his mobility. All went well, and doctors released him on Tuesday.
“A shark tried to eat me at the ocean,” Jay said after his release.
His story made national news. The Weiskopf family plans to return home on Thursday.
Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries say the rare attacks happen when a shark confuses a human for natural prey.