Gilbert Arenas, former Washington Bullets star and current resident of Laguna Niguel, prayed out loud as he pulled a 20-year-old who was bitten by a shark onto a shore this week in Maui.
The female snorkeler, who was bleeding from a severed shoulder, kept saying she was going to die.
But Areanas wouldn’t have any of it.
"All she had hanging out on her right arm was her bone, and she was in and out of saying these words, 'I'm dying, I'm going to die,'" Arenas said. "I kept saying to her, 'No, you're not. We are going to get you to shore. We're going to save you.'"
Arenas said he swam through choppy waters with poor visibility after spotting the woman who was screaming for help, blood surrounding her.
"We heard this scream -- this blood-curdling scream -- out in the water, about 75 yards out, and somebody said it's a shark attack and then I just got my fins and ran in," Arenas told NBC4 Friday.
Arenas jumped into the water, not knowing if danger was still lurking.
"I started thinking to myself, if the shark's around here, what's going to happen now -- I'm going to be the next person, so I kept going as fast as I can," he said.
He pulled the victim in and onto shore where he and others put her into a kayak and called paramedics.
“She was fading away,” Arenas said. “She was going to die.”
Jana Witteropp, a German tourist, was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center in critical condition. Arenas said Witteropp was stable Friday afternoon, and making movement with her eyes.
Her right arm was severed below the shoulder, Lee Mainaga, fire services chief at the Maui Fire Department, told the Associated Press. The limb wasn’t recovered.
Arenas will return to Laguna Niguel -- where he is now a pastor and a physical education teacher -- next week. His wife said he'll be welcomed back a hero.
"I'll never be so happy to see somebody as much as I will to see him come home and be safe," Diane Arenas said.
Through tears, Arenas told NBC4 he'll appreciate his family "more, more" when he returns home.
It wasn’t clear what type of shark bit Witteropp. Witnesses interviewed didn’t see the animal, said Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward.
It was the sixth such attack in Hawaii this year through the end of July, including three on Maui, according to a state database. There were 11 shark attacks in the state in 2012.
The last time anyone in Hawaii died from a shark attack was in 2004, when a tiger shark bit a surfer 100 yards off Maui. Prior to that, there was a fatal attack in 1992.
Tiger sharks are the species most often blamed for attacks, but it’s not known why they sometimes bite humans. They may be trying to figure out whether a person could be prey.
To protect against attacks, authorities recommend swimming, snorkeling and surfing with other people. They also say people should avoid the water at dawn and dusk, as this is when some shark species move inshore to eat.