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'Oh my God, they need to get out,' sharks attack teenage girls, woman at popular Florida beach

Walton County, Florida — Three people were injured on June 7 in two separate shark attacks within just 90 minutes of each other at neighboring Walton County beaches in Florida.

The attacks happened about four miles apart and left two people in critical condition and a third in stable condition, South Walton Fire District Fire Chief Ryan Crawford said in a news conference Friday.

“We encourage all of our beach patrons to be situationally aware in the water today, swim near a lifeguard, stay hydrated, and look out for each other,” the South Walton Fire District said in an update on its Facebook page Sunday.

The post continued: “Please do not underestimate the open water and any of the marine life that could be present.”

The department said yellow and purple flags were used Sunday to warn people of moderate surf hazards and the dangers of marine life.

Just after 1:15 p.m. on Friday, authorities responded to a report of a woman injured by a shark in the water near Watersound Way and Coopersmith Lane, according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

A 45-year-old woman was “reportedly swimming just past the first sandbar with her husband” near WaterSound Beach, Crawford said at the news conference, when she was attacked. The woman suffered significant trauma to the midsection and pelvic area, and her left lower arm was amputated, according to Crawford. She was airlifted to a trauma facility for treatment.

The second attack took place at the Sandy Shores Court area of Seacrest Beach at 2:55 p.m., four miles east of the first incident. Two teenage girls were in waist-deep water with a group of friends just inside the first sandbar when they were bit, according to first responders.

One of the teenagers had significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand, and the other had minor injuries on one foot, according to the fire district.

On Saturday, Beach Safety Director for the South Walton Fire District David Vaughn told CNN the person who suffered minor injuries was discharged from the hospital. The other two attack victims remained hospitalized in stable condition, he said.

CNN has contacted officials for an update on their condition but hasn't heard back. Vaughn added officials do not know for sure if the same shark was behind the separate attacks or what species was involved.

“It would make more sense that with the nature and severity of the injuries, that it was the same large shark,” Vaughn noted.

Following the incidents, beach flags were changed to double red Friday to indicate the water was closed for swimming.

The father of a 17-year-old girl who witnessed the teenagers being attacked from her hotel balcony said his daughter was distraught.

“She felt helpless that she couldn’t help,” Brian Erbesfield said of his daughter Hanna.

Video provided by the family shows a shark in breakers meters offshore as beachgoers gather at the water’s edge.

“Oh my God, Oh my God … They need to get out,” a voice said.

Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said during Friday’s news conference, authorities are speaking with experts to see if there is “something anomalous.”

“We don’t think there is, but we certainly want to be diligent,” he said. “We know we share the water with sharks, we understand that as tragic as this is, there are always sharks.”

The last two shark incidents in the area were reported in 2021 and 2005, according to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

During the most recent attack, in June 2021, a 14-year-old boy survived after being bitten in the chest area while swimming near a fishing line 40 yards from the shore in Grayton State Park. Another attack was fatal – in June 2005, a 14-year-old girl from Louisiana was on a boogie board 250 yards from shore when she was pulled under by the shark and bitten in the legs.

While the risk of being bitten by a shark is extremely low, Florida tops global charts for the number of shark bites, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s annual shark attack report.

In 2023, Florida had 16 unprovoked shark bite incidents reported, which represents 44% of the United States total and 23% worldwide. Volusia County had the most shark bites, and the others were reported in Brevard, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Escambia and Pinellas counties. There were no fatalities reported last year in the state as a result of the attacks.

Copyright CNN

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