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Woodstock woman Denise Holz-Oosterveld survives shark attack, but suffers terrible loss

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

What was supposed to be a carefree family reunion on a Florida beach turned into a nightmare scenario for a Woodstock woman and her family who are still recovering from their ordeal.

“It was horrifying,” said Denise Holz-Oosterveld, who was born in Brazil and lives in Woodstock with her husband and two children. “It feels like I am in a dream and I am going to wake up one day.”

The 35-year-old is still badly shaken but slowly getting better at her north Woodstock home after a shark bit her leg twice, one of those which entered her leg bone.

Holz-Oosterveld, who hobbies also include running and cycling, was paddle boarding at Ormond Beach April 11 around 4 p.m. when she was attacked and bitten in the water while her husband and two children were on the shore.

“I didn’t see the shark — it was too fast,” Holz-Oosterveld explained. “I was riding the wave and then I fell. I was getting on the board when it bit me twice. There was blood, blood everywhere.”

Her sister Katie Holz, who was paddle boarding nearby, heard her cries and came over to assist her, and began screaming for help.

“I was in shock and my body started shaking,” Holz-Oosterveld said.

Her sister’s screams caught Holz-Oosterveld ‘s husband Kevin Oosterveld’s attention. He was on the beach with their kids, packing up to return to their residence.

After telling his children to stay put, Oosterveld, who still didn’t know what happened, slowly made his way into the water.

“The screaming got louder and I knew someone was hurt,” he said. “I saw my wife lying on the board as white as a ghost. I saw her leg; the calf muscle was folded. I grabbed a hold of the board and started pushing her ashore.”

Oosterveld started yelling out to a man he spotted on shore, telling him to call 911.

On the beach two tourists from Quebec helped bind her leg up in towels, while they waited for help.

The couple’s children, Lucas and Emily, who had witnessed the whole episode, were taken back to their holiday home while their parents waited for help.

Eventually, Holz-Oosterveld’s brother, a RCMP officer who served in Fort McMurray also joined them.

Soon after the beach patrol showed up and took over first aid, while waiting for an ambulance.

Back at the house, Oosterveld tried to console his traumatized children, who were both worried they might lose their mother.

“I told them kids don’t worry your mother is going to be OK,” he said.

In hospital, Holz-Oosterveld received 30 sutures and started her long journey to recovery.

It was in the Daytona hospital, she was surprised and happy to learn through blood tests that she was pregnant.

But tragically, after returning to Woodstock, Holz-Oosterveld learned she had miscarried the child.

After everything they had been through, it was a terrible blow.

“For that to hit us — was pretty hard,” Oosterveld said.

Holz-Oosterveld is now stable, and they are pleased that a nurse from CarePartners visits every day to change her bandages.

Her Brazilian mother Delsey Holz is also staying with her to help out.

But it will likely be six weeks before she can put any weight on her leg.

“It’s going to be a long summer,” she said.

Oosterveld said so far the medical expenses have been covered by his work insurance and OHIP, and praised his workplace, TMMC, for being so supportive.

“Work has been absolutely amazing,” he said.

Ormond Beach, where the family vacationed, is located in Volusia County where the majority of shark attacks occur in Florida and in the world.

The county has the dubious nickname of being the Shark Attack Capital of the World, despite very few of the attacks being fatal.

Shark bites are rare with one report from National Geographic stating a person has a one in 3.7 million chance of being bitten.

Local media reported that the attack of Holz-Oosterveld was the third in Volusia County so far this year.

Holz-Oosterveld said she would be a little hesitant, but she would likely get back into the ocean that she loves so much in the future.

Officials believe she was likely bitten by a Blacktip shark, and it may have been a case of the shark mistaking her for its food sources.

“It’s the ocean; it’s the shark’s environment,” she said. “I probably scared him — I might have jumped on him. No one is to blame, it’s just bad luck.”

She credited her family for saving her life, and her advice to others who want to swim in the coastal ocean is this.

“Never, never go in the water alone,” she said.

 

 

Shark attack facts:

  • According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, in 2016 there was 81 unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, resulting in four fatalities.
  • Surfers and other board users made up 58 per cent of the cases where people were attacked.
  • Sixty per cent of the attacks found in the U.S. were in Florida, with zero fatalities.
  • With 15 attacks in 2016, Volusia County had the largest number of unprovoked incidents in the state.
  • Shark fatalities are remarkable rare considering the number of people entering the water is thousands of times more than the number of attacks bites.
  • Only about eight fatalities are recorded every year on average.

HRivers@postmedia.com