Inlet shark attacks continue
By MARK I. JOHNSON
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Sharks 6: Surfers 0.
That´s the score as it stood on Sunday. Just one day after shark bites sent three surfers to the hospital, the toothy creatures were blamed for three more attacks Sunday off Volusia County beaches.
According to Volusia County Beach Patrol officials, two of Sunday´s attacks occurred in the same area as Saturday´s incidents, about a half-mile south of Ponce de Leon Inlet. The third took place in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, near the 4000 block of South Atlantic Avenue, at about 10 a.m.
That victim, a 17-year-old female surfer, was bitten on the left foot, according to Deputy Chief Joe Wooden. Her name was not released because Beach Patrol officials were unable to contact her parents, Wooden said.
The teen was treated at the scene by lifeguards and then transported to Halifax Medical Center where she was treated and released, Wooden said.
About three hours later, lifeguards south of the inlet were notified two surfers had been bitten within a minute of each other at about 1:15 p.m.
According to Capt. Dave Williams, Becky Chapman, 17, of Winter Park and Bobby Kurrek, 32, of New Smyrna Beach, were surfing about a half-mile apart when they were attacked.
He said Chapman was in about chest-deep water and was getting back on her board after a ride when a shark grabbed her left leg.
"It bit her through her left calf muscle, severing two tendons," said Chapman´s father, Ted, while waiting outside Bert Fish Medical Center. "They said it was a 6- to 7-foot black tip shark."
He said Becky reached down and touched the shark. When she realized what it was, she started punching the fish in an effort to get it to let go, Ted Chapman said. Becky was helped to shore by a friend and then transported to the hospital.
Becky underwent surgery late Sunday afternoon to repair the damage to her leg. She was listed in good condition.
"The doctors said she is going to be OK," Ted Chapman said.
He said Becky has been surfing for about two years, mostly in the New Smyrna Beach area, and this was not her first encounter with a shark.
"She was brushed by one over the July 4 weekend," he said.
Ted Chapman added he does not believe the encounter will stop his daughter from wanting to surf, but her mother may have other ideas.
"I think she is going to cut up Becky´s surfboards and put them in the fireplace," he said.
Kurrek said his encounter marked the first time he was truly scared while surfing.
He had been surfing for about two hours near the south jetty and was headed to shore when he found himself surrounded by sharks.
"I looked right and saw four or five. I looked left and saw six or seven," Kurrek said. "I was only in about two or three feet of water, 50 yards from shore."
He said two of the animals came racing toward him when one "jetted underneath me," bumping his surfboard. It then turned around and grabbed Kurrek´s right foot in its mouth.
"It yanked me off my stick," he said. "My whole foot was in its mouth."
The shark quickly released Kurrek and he was able to get to shore. He walked to a nearby lifeguard for treatment of several cuts to the top and bottom of the foot before going to Bert Fish Medical Center where he was treated and released Sunday afternoon.
Kurrek said he has seen several smaller sharks while surfing New Smyrna Beach waters over the past dozen years, but Sunday´s fish were much larger.
"They were 4 or 5 feet long, gray on the top and white on the bottom," he said.
After the attacks on Kurrek and Chapman, the Beach Patrol closed about a mile of the beach from the inlet south. It remained closed for the rest of the day.
Williams and Wooden said the Beach Patrol decided Sunday morning to open beaches to swimming and surfing despite Saturday´s attacks, but they took extra precautions. That included asking the National Scholastic Surfing Association surf contest to relocate farther away from the inlet in an effort to prevent activity in the waters from stirring up shark activity, Wooden said.
Two of the three surfers injured Saturday were participating in that contest. One, Jason Valentine of New Smyrna Beach, remained in Bert Fish Medical Center Sunday after surgery to repair damage from a shark bite to his hand. He was listed in good condition and expected to be released early this morning, according to a hospital spokesperson. The other victims, Jeff White, 20, and Dylan Feindt, 19, both of New Smyrna Beach, were released from BFMC late Saturday after treatment for wounds to the feet and ankles.
In addition to moving the surf contest, Wooden said the Beach Patrol had a boat and a power-ski out looking for sharks near the inlet. If any had been spotted, the beach would have been closed immediately, he said. "They didn´t report seeing anything until just after the attacks," Wooden said.
Sunday´s attacks bring the total for Volusia County this year to 17. That is one shy of the 1996 record of 18, Wooden said. And it represents almost half the 37 incidents reported worldwide this year.
"But you have to put that in perspective," he said. "Australia has only had three shark attacks, but they were all fatal. We have never had a fatality off Volusia beaches."
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