June 28, 2005

Second Florida shark attack in 3 days, boy stable

MIAMI (Reuters) - A 16-year-old boy fishing in waist-deepwater off Florida's panhandle was bitten by a shark on Monday,the second shark attack along Florida's Gulf coast in threedays, officials said.

Craig Hutto, 16, of Lebanon, Tennessee, was rushed byrescue helicopter to a hospital in Panama City, where he wasinitially in critical condition, officials said. Doctorsamputated his right leg, according to media reports.

"The patient has been stabilized. He's no longer critical,"said Christa Hild, a spokeswoman for Bay Medical Center. "We'rehoping he'll be OK at this point."

The boy was standing in the water on a sandbar with anotherteenager off Cape San Blas, about 60 miles from where a14-year-old girl was killed by a shark on Saturday.

"He was fishing about 60 yards offshore, on a sandbar. Hehad a fish on the line at the time," said Paula Pickett, aspokeswoman for Gulf County.

Authorities closed beaches along a 43-mile stretch of coastin Gulf County for the rest of the day.

In Saturday's attack, Jamie Marie Daigle of Gonzales,Louisiana, was swimming with a friend about 200 yards off thecoast near Destin, Florida when she was bitten on the thigh bywhat officials believe was a six-foot (1.8-meter) bull shark.

A nearby surfer pulled her onto his board and took her toshore but rescue workers were unable to revive her.

Florida recorded about 33 shark attacks yearly, on average,from 2000 to 2003. The number dipped to 12 last year, possiblybecause a series of strong hurricanes kept swimmers, surfersand divers out of the water and kept the sharks away from thecoastline.

Fatal shark attacks are rare. There were seven reporteddeaths as a result of 61 unprovoked shark attacks recordedworldwide last year, according to the International SharkAttack File, a group at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Worldwide, there were four fatal attacks in 2003, three in2002 and four in 2001, the group's statistics show. The lastfatal attack in Florida was in 2001.