3 bitten by sharks in New Smyrna
By MARK I. JOHNSON
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — The "World´s Safest Bathing Beach" wasn´t for three surfers Saturday as shark bites sent them to an area hospital.
According to Deputy Chief Joe Wooden of the Volusia County Beach Patrol, all of the attacks occurred nearly a mile south of the Ponce de Leon Inlet´s south jetty between 10 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
"We saw sharks all morning long," said Leon Johnston, director for the North Central Florida Conference of the National Scholastic Surf Association, host of the surf contest being held in the bite zone. "There were bull sharks 7 to 8 feet long and 6-foot blacktips."
He said smaller sharks also were seen within two to three feet of shore, causing contestants to run around or jump over them as they headed out to their heats.
Two of those bitten Saturday, Jeff White, 20, and Dylan Feindt, 19, both of New Smyrna Beach, were contestants in the event, said Johnston. The third victim, Jason Valentine, 20, also of New Smyrna Beach, was apparently free surfing near the contest area, he said.
The attacks didn´t seem to faze other surfers.
Pete Frederiksen, 25, of Largo, said he was next to one of the victims when the attack occurred.
"I saw him lift up his foot and say, ´Darn, I just got bit by a shark,´" Frederiksen recalled. "There were about five or six cuts on his foot."
He said he kept surfing until Beach Patrol officers closed about a mile of beach to bathers and surfers after White´s attack. The beach remained closed from about 1 to 3 p.m., according to Capt. Rob Horster.
With the closure, Johnston said his group moved their event south to the Beachway Avenue beach approach and continued the contest.
"Every local knows the inlet is a nursery for sharks," he said. "But they were a lot more aggressive today than I have seen in the 30 years I have lived here."
The first bite was reported about 10 a.m. when Feindt came up to the contest tent with cuts on his left foot. He was treated at the scene by an off-duty Beach Patrol officer and went to Bert Fish Medical Center by personal vehicle.
Shortly after noon, Valentine was bitten across the back of his left hand. While Beach Patrol lifeguards were treating him, about 30 minutes later, White reported suffering a bite on his right foot, said Wooden.
Halifax/Fish Community Health spokesman Kate Holcomb said Valentine underwent surgery to repair the damage to his hand Saturday afternoon and was expected to be admitted to the hospital overnight. He was listed in good condition. The other two men were treated in the emergency room and released.
Johnston said he warned contestants to be wary of the sharks, but decided not to shut down.
"(Sharks) are in the water and we are in the water. We just hope we don´t run into each other," he said Saturday afternoon. "We will be back at the inlet in the morning."
Wooden said he believes the sharks were drawn to the area by large concentrations of baitfish near the inlet. When that was added to the murky water along shore Saturday and a large number of people surfing, it was a "bad combination," he said.
The attacks drew national media attention, Wooden said.
"It has been media day at the beach," he said.
The attacks bring the number of shark bites reported in Volusia County for the year to 14, none life- threatening. Last year, 12 bites were recorded.
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