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Friday, June 14, 2024

Consecutive shark attacks prompt Florida county to shut down beaches

The waters off Walton County, Florida, were closed following consecutive shark bite incidents on Friday.

Both incidents unfolded in Walton County, situated in the Florida Panhandle. Officials couldn’t ascertain the distance of the attacks from the shoreline, stated Mackenzie McClintock, spokesperson for the South Walton Fire District.

The two incidents occurred approximately 4 miles apart within a span of about 90 minutes, according to South Walton Fire District Chief Ryan Crawford. The total count of victims reached three.

Crawford expressed the rarity of such occurrences, deeming it “extremely unusual” to witness two bite incidents in a single afternoon, as he conveyed during an evening news briefing.

Medics carry a shark attack victim to safety in Watersound, Walton County., Fla., on Friday.

The first reported shark incident involved a 45-year-old woman, transpiring around 1:20 p.m. in Watersound, near Founders Way in Watersound Beach, as relayed by Crawford and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

Recounting the event, Crawford detailed how the woman, swimming with her husband beyond the first sandbar, fell victim to the shark’s attack, resulting in severe trauma to her midsection, pelvic area, and the amputation of her left lower arm.

The woman was swiftly transported to a medical center in critical condition, Crawford added, with subsequent updates from Elizabeth Eulber, a spokesperson with HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital, indicating her stable condition by Saturday.

Following this initial attack, adjacent beaches raised double red flags, signaling danger, while the Gulf in the Walton County vicinity was temporarily closed to the public, as per the sheriff’s office directives.

Shortly thereafter, at 2:56 p.m., authorities responded to a second shark incident at the Sandy Shores Court area off of Seacrest Beach in Walton County, where two girls, aged between 15 and 17, became victims, according to Crawford.

These girls were part of a group of friends situated just within the first sandbar, Crawford noted, highlighting the striking similarity to the first attack.

One of the victims suffered significant injuries to both an upper and lower extremity and was transported to a trauma center in critical condition, while the other sustained flesh wounds to her right foot and remained in stable condition, Crawford stated.

Sheriff Mike Adkinson praised the quick responses of nearby citizens and first responders, asserting that both critically injured women had a fighting chance at recovery.

In response to the dual attacks, authorities sought insights from experts at Mote Marine, based in Sarasota, Florida, to discern any anomalous factors, though Adkinson expressed skepticism regarding such possibilities.

McClintock revealed that officials were unable to identify the species of shark responsible for both incidents, though sharks are known to frequent these waters.

Subsequent to the second attack, authorities enforced a comprehensive closure of water access across all of Walton County. The water reopened on Saturday, marked by red flags denoting high surf and strong currents, alongside purple flags indicating the presence of stinging marine life.

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