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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Shark Attack Blamed|on Drunken Instructor

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A filmmaker was mauled by a Mako shark when an "intoxicated" dive instructor drew it to her with bait, she claims in court.

Elke Specker sued Michael Kazma, Mako Shark Diving and Yellow Charter Boat on Nov. 10 in Federal Court.

Specker, of San Diego, says she boarded Yellow Charter's Cetus Specula boat on June 13 as a fare-paying passenger to film underwater shark activity.

Kazma, a recreational dive instructor, was "chumming" the water and hand-feeding sharks for the filming, the lawsuit states.

Bait, or chum, may include fish parts, bone and blood; chumming is used to lure keen-smelling sharks. Specker claims that while he was chumming that day, "Kazma was intoxicated at all relevant times."

The lawsuit claims "that in his intoxicated state, defendant Kazma was improperly and negligently supervising and directing the divers, including plaintiff Specker, in that he directed plaintiff Specker to where he knew or should have known was an unsafe area. He then continued to feed a swimming Mako shark, holding the bait directly in the shark's path toward plaintiff Specker, which led to her being bitten by that shark."

Specker says she suffered "multiple permanent severe injuries and disfigurement" and emotional distress.

The Mako shark, or blue pointer, can grow to 10 feet and is the fastest shark.

According to the International Shark Attack File, a global database of shark attacks, there were 42 recorded Mako shark attacks on humans from 1980 to 2010, in which three people died, and 20 boat attacks.

Kazma promotes San Diego-based Mako Shark Diving, which he operates, as a "family business" that offers "safe out-of-cage encounters" with Mako and Blue sharks.

He describes himself on his website, checked Wednesday morning, as an "ecologist/shark behavioral expert and professionally trained shark feeder," who has practiced shark diving for 18 years, shark feeding for five years and technical scuba instruction for 13 years.

His website says that Kazma is "known globally for his ability to attract and hand feed Mako sharks."

Kazma, who corresponded at length with Courthouse News, ultimately declined public comment.

Specker did not respond to email request for comments late Tuesday.

Her creative media studio, IN2 Focus Media, has garnered awards for the short films "Diver's Backyard," "Xibalba, The Maya Underworld," "Shadow Reef" and "Giants of Socorro," which have been featured at film festivals and conservation summits.

"We work to protect the world's seas and marine life by producing 'films that make a difference,'" Specker's LinkedIn bio states.

Yellow Charter Boat could not be reached by email or phone on Tuesday.

Specker's counsel did not reply to communications via email and phone.

Specker seeks damages for negligence and maritime lien.

She is represented by Richard Lesser of Redondo Beach and Richard Jorgensen with Jorgensen & Salberg of Tustin.

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