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Treasure Coast Essay

Honoring a shark-attack hero

Recently, Vero Beach lifeguard Erik Toomsoo received the Medal of Valor from the United States Lifesaving Association.  It was hung around his neck in a ceremony at Vero Beach City Hall.  The audience in the packed chamber gave him a standing ovation.  The tribute was richly deserved.  At about 11 a.m. on May 9th, 2012, Toomsoo was on duty sweeping the walkway above the beach at Humiston Park when he heard a desperate cry for help.   It came from Karin Ulrike Stei, a 47-year-old German tourist who had been swimming about 30 yards out when a shark clamped its jaws around her left thigh.  She pulled her leg away and saw she was bleeding profusely from a gaping wound.  Toomsoo immediately swam to her, wrapped her in his arm and brought her to shore.  Dave Daniels, visiting from Michigan, ran into the surf to help.  When Stei was safely on the beach, emergency personnel lent a hand.  Daniels and the others also were recognized by the Lifesaving Association.  Stei is back in Germany, still recovering.  She can walk, but her left leg is very weak. She told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers by phone that she hopes to return to Vero Beach next year to personally thank Toomsoo and everyone else involved.  But she said she does not plan to go swimming.  For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.