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1998/11/21 James Willie Tellasmon - Florida - ***Fatal***

Posted: Thu Apr 14, 2005 1:50 am
by sharkbait
11/21/1998 James Willie Tellasmon Fatal Vero Beach Florida USA Swimming

Posted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:18 pm
by sharkbait
Young boy killed in Florida shark attack

Tellasmon was swimming at this beach when attacked by a shark
November 23, 1998
Web posted at: 10:15 p.m. EST (0315 GMT)
VERO BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- A 9-year-old boy was attacked and killed by a shark while swimming about 40 yards from shore, the first such fatality in Florida in a decade, authorities said Monday.

James Willie Tellasmon, who was at the beach with his mother and a family friend, died Saturday near Ocean Beach at Jaycee Park, some 70 miles north of West Palm Beach along Florida's east coast.

One police officer said the family friend, an adult male, went into the water to try to save the boy. But the mother saw that he, too was in trouble, and yelled for help. Another man went in and pulled the family friend out.

Authorities used a police helicopter and all-terrain vehicles to search the beach, while a fire department dive team searched the water for Tellasmon. His body was finally recovered after the sun came up Sunday.

Medical examiner Dr. Frederick Hobin said the boy died as the direct result of an attack by a large shark, although he couldn't determine what kind of shark or its specific size.

"As best I can tell, the injuries are the cause of the death. There was extensive bite injury with tissue loss associated," Hobin said. "I would say that all parts of the body were affected."

Police Chief Jim Gabbard estimated that the attack occurred about 40 yards from shore.

James Willie Tellasmon in an undated photo
"Witnesses said he started to flail, and then he was gone," Gabbard said. "He just went under."

Authorities recovered only the boy's torso and legs, Gabbard said.

Dangerous time of year
"This is the time of year when the water temperature starts changing and the migratory fish begin to move through the area," Gabbard said. "There's lots of bait fish, and they're close to shore. The predators ... are all where the bait fish are."

A 13-year-old boy was bitten by a shark on November 11 near where the latest attack occurred.

"Shark bites are fairly common," Gabbard said. "But most ... bite and let go."

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, said the last shark attack fatality was in the summer of 1988, when a man jumped off a boat.

The last fatal attack so close to shore likely was more than 20 years ago, Burgess said.

About 25 non-fatal shark attacks occurred in Florida last year, compared with 13 in 1996, Burgess said. He did not have figures for this year.

Volusia County led the state in shark attacks last year, with 14. Most occurred in Ponce Inlet, a popular surfing spot on Florida's east coast, according to a University of Florida study released in June.

Flagler, Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin counties also had their share of attacks, but Indian River County, the scene of the most recent incidents, didn't record any last year.

Re: 11/21/1998 James Willie Tellasmon (Floria) ***Fatal***

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2008 10:48 am
by sharkbait
10 years ago, missing boy became Treasure Coast's lone shark attack fatality

9-year-old James Willie Tellasmon lost his life off Indian River County shore

By Lamaur Stancil (Contact)

Sunday, November 23, 2008
After a massive search by the Coast Guard and the Indian River County firefighters, divers with Indian River County Fire Rescue found Tellasmon’s body about 70 yards offshore, just north of Jaycee Park. <br />James Willie Tellasmon
After a massive search by the Coast Guard and the Indian River County firefighters, divers with Indian River County Fire Rescue found Tellasmon’s body about 70 yards offshore, just north of Jaycee Park.
James Willie Tellasmon
James Willie Tellasmon
James Willie Tellasmon
James Willie Tellasmon
File photo
Odalbert Louise, left, and Neirva Dumerci, James Willie Tellasmon’s uncle and cousin, sit outside the boy’s home in Gifford in 1998. Louise holds a photograph of James and his 4-year-old sister, Karen Renard.
Odalbert Louise, left, and Neirva Dumerci, James Willie Tellasmon’s uncle and cousin, sit outside the boy’s home in Gifford in 1998. Louise holds a photograph of James and his 4-year-old sister, Karen Renard.

James Willie Tellasmon would be taking his first steps into adulthood this year.

Instead, James was 9 years old when he stepped into the Atlantic Ocean and never returned. The boy, who teachers described as soft-spoken and studious, became a tragic anomaly in Treasure Coast history 10 years ago this week.

Authorities said James was attacked by a shark north of Jaycee Beach on Nov. 21, 1998. A 3 1/2-hour search that day proved fruitless. It wasn't until the next day searchers found part of the boy's body, severed by a shark bite.

James is the only person killed by a shark on the Treasure Coast. He is one of just 13 deaths in Florida attributed to sharks, according to records provided by University of Florida Museum of Natural History.

"It was one of the first incidents I had where I was dealing with a family facing that type of loss," said Vero Beach Police Lt. Matthew Monaco, 33, who was a rookie patrolman when he was called to Jaycee Beach the day James disappeared. "At the time, we didn't know we were dealing with a shark attack. We stayed at the beach until dark, and I went home that night thinking it was a drowning."

The following day, a dive team from Indian River County Fire Rescue discovered James' torso and legs in the water. The state medical examiner speculated a bull shark was the attacker, though other experts have said it may have been a tiger shark.

The boy had arrived at Jaycee Beach with family and friends early on the afternoon of Nov. 21, said Vero Beach lifeguard captain Nathan Rieck. He said he had some concerns about the family because they were walking north of the beach's guarded area.

"You need an extra pair of eyes looking out for you," Rieck said.

Thirty minutes after he lost sight of the beachgoers, Rieck noticed someone running frantically from the north side of the beach. Rieck and other lifeguards followed the man to the place where James disappeared and began searching for the boy.

"It was a long, horrible afternoon," Rieck said.

On the shore, Monaco talked with the family members.

"Part of my job was to be there with the family, but it bothered me that I couldn't dive in to help with the search," Monaco said.

Since the incident, reported shark attacks have been uncommon, but not far from the thoughts of local lifeguards.

"We keep an eye out for the bait fish, and we'll call people to come out of the water if we see them," Rieck said. "The important thing is for people to stay in the guarded areas of a beach. It's not a water theme park."

While the state Medical Examiner's Office was convinced the boy was killed by a shark, at least one expert who reviewed the evidence believed that wasn't the case. Instead, Erich Ritter, a researcher for the New Jersey-based Shark Research Institute, said James drowned first and his body was attacked after he died.

"No discolored water (blood) was seen" in the area James disappeared, Ritter wrote in his report. "It seems more likely that the boy, caught in the strong rip current, was drowned and his body was carried a distance offshore where it was scavenged by several species of sharks and marine animals."

Before his death, James attended Sebastian Elementary School. The 1999 yearbook was dedicated to him, said Principal Pat Donovan.


Attacks are most commonly reported along the coast in Central Florida. Here's a look at the number of unprovoked attacks in the state from 1882 to 2007:

More than 50: Volusia, Brevard and Palm Beach counties

20 to 29: Martin, St. Lucie and St. Johns counties

10 to 19: Indian River, Duval, Pinellas, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and the Florida Keys

1 to 9: Bay, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Sarasota, Lee, Manatee, Santa Rosa, Franklin, Nassau, Walton, Okaloosa, Gulf and Charlotte counties

Most attacks: Volusia, with 210


Indian River County: 17 (one fatal, 1998)

St. Lucie County: 28 (none fatal)

Martin County: 27 (none fatal)


•Always stay in groups; sharks are more likely to attack a lone person.

•Do not wander too far from shore — this isolates an individual and additionally places one far away from assistance.

•Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours, when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.

•Do not enter the water if bleeding or if menstruating — a shark's olfactory ability is acute, and sharks are attracted to blood.

•Do not wear shiny jewelry because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.

•Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks — both often eat the same food.

•Use extra caution when waters are murky, and avoid uneven tanning and bright-colored clothing — sharks see contrast particularly well.

•Refrain from excess splashing, and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.

•Exercise caution when in the area between sandbars or near steep dropoffs — these are favorite hangouts for sharks. ... ions-lone/