Expert urges Florida shark patrol
By John Katzenbach
Miami News Reporter
It is an isolated case, one that many people in tousist-consious South Florida would rather ignore.
Last Wednesday, Alan Brenneka a 19 year-old Sunrise man, was paddling on his surfboard about 100 feet out in heavy waves off Delray Beach.
The shark struck with characteristics swiftness, slashing and tearing at Brenneka’s arm. As blood spilled into the water , another surfer and passerby swam to Brenneka’s aid.
More than 24 hours later he remained in intensive care unit of Bethesta Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Over the weekend Brenneka’s condition improved and he is listed in fair condition today.
Moments after the attack, the shark slipped back into-the green coastal waters and disappeared.
Shark attack researchers are now sorting out exactly what happened to Florida’s fifth shark attack victim of 1976.
There are more shark attacks off Florida beaches than any other comparably sized area, says Dr. Perry Gilbert, a renowned shark authority with Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota.
The attack on Brenneka, he said was further testimony to the need to patrol Florida beaches and to clear swimmers from the water when dangerous sharks are sighted.
Perry says investigators will obtain as many details of the attack as possible and add it to the International Shark Attack File maintained in Sarasota.
Surgeons who worked on Brenneka’s torn arm will be contacted and eyewitness accounts of the attack recorded. The researchers will learn that the shark was described as by witnesses as being nearly six feet in length and of light color.
It has tentatively been identifies as a Lemon shark, a species common to Florida waters, and authorities are speculating that the shark followed schools of small bait fish (its regular diet) into shallow water.
The attack on Brenneka accrued only a few months after the body of a teenager from Tennessee
was found floating with obvious signs of shark involvement.
A police officer waved the crowd away from the area behind the Riley residence where the helicopter landed Riley lives near the Hotel.
“He seemed to be dazed and kept asking for water, “Riley said. “The flesh was rolled back in one big flap across his elbow.”
According to witnesses, Brenneka’s arm appeared to be slashed in a circular pattern a few inches above the elbow and extending to his forearm. He also had smaller cuts on his forearm.
The shark almost bumped another surfer off his board following the attack, according to Beach Patrol Lt. Spence Driver.
Deputies in the helicopter said they saw “two good sized sharks cruising north and south close to the beach. Delray Beach Lifeguard Les Johnson said about 10 or 12 sharks were also seen in the area.
“We have closed the beach to swimming for the day, “ he said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry. We haven’t had shark attacks here for a long time”
Johnson said he could not remember when the last shark attack was reported here.
Lifeguards at Boca Raton were warning people before they go into the water that sharks had been sighted, but the beaches were not closed there.
Boynton Beach was closed following the attack.
Beaches in Broward County remained open but officials said they were keeping up a watch.
Doug Cook, an assistant trainer at Ocean World in Ft. Lauderdale said the Lemon is known for its quickness and nastiness and has a reputation for attacking swimmers.
“The Lemon shark is real nasty,” Cook said. “It has five to seven rows of jagged teeth. A seven-foot shark is capable of producing 18 metric tons of pressure per square inch – it can cut through bone easily.”
Cook said surfboards have been involved in a number of shark attacks along the east coast of Florida and in California.
“Splashing under the surfboard will attract them,” “They think something is dying.”