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Ranger who shot shark modest about rescue

National Park employee is Mt. Lebanon High graduate

Thursday, July 12, 2001

By Milan Simonich, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Don't call National Park Ranger Jared Klein a hero, not with a little boy's life still in danger.

Klein, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, has been under media siege since he shot and immobilized a 7-foot, 200-pound bull shark that attacked the child last week in Florida.

Klein fired four shots from his 9 mm pistol into the shark's head. Then he pried open its jaws with a police baton and, with the help of a volunteer firefighter, pulled the boy's severed right arm from the shark's gullet.

The child, 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast, remained in critical condition yesterday in Sacred Heart Children's Hospital in Pensacola, Fla. His arm was reattached by surgeons after the attack Friday night, but he was still susceptible to brain death. Most of Jessie's organs were damaged because he lost so much blood in the attack at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Klein, 30, is declining interviews because he is uncomfortable with the attention he has received. He considers the heroes of this bizarre story to be Jessie's uncle, Vance Flosenzier, and an unidentified beachgoer who wrestled the shark to shore after it attacked the boy.

"Jared is being rather modest about all of it," said Klein's father, Bud. "He believes the uncle deserves all the credit for fighting off the shark."

Klein has worked for the National Park Service for four years, though he is still classified as a seasonal employee. Permanent jobs with the agency are rare and coveted by countless applicants. To heighten his chances of landing a job, Klein has accepted a series of temporary assignments across the country, including Crater Lake in Oregon, the Florida Everglades and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

His job this summer brought him to Gulf Islands National Seashore, a 150-mile stretch of white beaches and fertile coastal marshes in Mississippi and Florida.

Jessie was swimming Friday night in Langdon Beach in the park's Florida district when the shark pounced on him. Klein rushed in to help, but he maintained that the most difficult and risky work was already done by the boy's uncle.

"He's a big guy. He got hold of it and tossed it ashore," District Ranger Supervisor John Bandurski said of Flosenzier.

Klein then shot the shark. The bullets may not have immediately killed the shark, but they weakened it enough for the boy's severed arm to be retrieved.

Klein, according to his father, has dreamed for years of working in America's national parks. "He's an outdoors person -- a hiker, a kayaker and a scuba diver," said Bud Klein, who retired from the real estate business two years ago and now lives in Purcellville, Va.

Jared Klein, the youngest of five children, graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 1989. He then enlisted in the Army, where he became a military policeman.

After his four-year Army hitch was up, he worked as a volunteer with Medical Rescue Team South, an emergency unit that serves the Mt. Lebanon area. Klein went on to Penn State University, where he received a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation that positioned him to land seasonal employment with the Park Service.

Even though Klein covets a permanent position with the agency, he does not want to tout himself now. As dramatic as the rescue of Jessie Arbogast was, he and the rest of the park staff are aware that the boy's life is still in jeopardy.

In addition to his right arm being severed, Jessie suffered horrific leg wounds that nearly drained him of blood. Doctors said the blood loss caused Jessie's kidneys to fail Sunday. They fear that he could suffer brain damage as well.

"The big, big issue that has us all kind of walking on eggshells right now is brain swelling and the potential of actual brain death," said Dr. Rex Northup.

Tests yesterday showed brain activity like that of a deep sleep, but it was still too early to determine whether Jessie had damage.

"I just hope he survives," said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who will be in Pensacola today and hopes to meet with the boy's parents. "It's an incredible story."

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