28 June 2005

Shark attack scare hits the United States

A shark mauled a 16-year-old boy fishing in knee-deep water off the Florida coast on Monday, causing panic just three days after a teenaged girl was killed in another attack.

A number of beaches were closed because of the attacks.

The youth was fishing on a sand bar off the Gulf of Mexico resort of Cape San Blas when he was seized by a shark, which inflicted critical injuries to his leg.

Gulf county spokesperson Dalton Upchurch said the boy, who was not named, had waded out from the beach with a friend to go fishing.

A spokesperson at the Bay Medical Centre hospital told US media that following an operation the youth would survive.

Upchurch said all beaches in the county had been closed until Tuesday as a precaution.

On Saturday a 14-year-old girl, Jamie Marie Daigle, was killed in an attack about 100km down the same coast in neighbouring Walton County.

Walton County beaches were closed on Sunday but reopened Monday.

Daigle had been playing on a boogie board with a friend, Felicia Venable, about 180m offshore when they spotted a "dark shadow" in the water.

Venable swam frantically to shore after she saw Daigle being pulled underwater, police said.

A nearby surfer Tim Dicus found the girl, who came from Louisiana, unconscious in the water and put her on his surfboard to float her back to shore even as the shark made repeated attempts to stage a new attack.

Dicus, 54, said he heard a scream and found the girl in the centre of a circle of bloody water and that much of the girl's thigh had been cut to the bone. Daigle died from wounds suffered in the attack.

"The shark kept coming back around," Dicus said. "I've never been so scared in my life. It was like the movie 'Jaws' except I was in it."

Erich Ritter of the Shark Research Institute said the girl was probably attacked by a 1.85m-long bull shark, based on measurements of the bite wounds.

"This was a rare case where the shark hits many times," said Ritter, whose organisation campaigns to protect the predator.

Shark attacks remain rare, with just 61 unprovoked attacks in 2003, including seven deaths: two in Australia; two in the United States; and one each in Brazil, Egypt and South Africa, according to the International Shark Attack Files.

In Florida there were 12 recorded shark attacks last year, down from 30 in 2003, when it had the largest number in the world, according to the University of Florida.

But scientists have warned that the number has been rising in recent decades because of the growing number of swimmers and surfers at sea.

Ritter said warmer water could have drawn sharks closer to the two teenagers attacked in recent days.

Source: www.news24.com


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