Seventh surfer in four days bit by shark off Volusia beaches
NEW SMYRNA BEACH Florida Â— A surfer was bitten by a shark off the Volusia County coast today, the seventh attack along the countyÂ’s stretch of beaches in four days.
Omar Oyarce, 27, was bitten in the right thigh when he re-entered the water after the beach had been cleared for a short time because of lightning. Oyarce was taken to a hospital but his injuries werenÂ’t serious and he was released.
Â“I was just getting in,Â” Oyarce told Orlando television station WKMG. Â“I donÂ’t think IÂ’m going to come back here again.Â”
HeÂ’s not the only shark attack victim who will avoid New Smyrna Beach in the near future.
Seventeen-year-old Becky Chapman used to love surfing near the Ponce de Leon Inlet off New Smyrna Beach, with its 3-foot waves and warm waters.
But itÂ’s going to be a long time before she returns to the place where a shark badly bit her leg last weekend, she said.
Â“IÂ’d always gone to the Inlet because thatÂ’s where the surfing is the best,Â” Chapman said today. Â“I had seen sharks ... but never had they ever bothered me before.
Â“After this, IÂ’ll go surf somewhere else,Â” she added.
Chapman was one of seven swimmers attacked in the waters off New Smyrna Beach during the past four days. Over Easter weekend, seven people were bitten.
That raises to 16 the total of attacks along more than 50 miles of Volusia CountyÂ’s beaches this year, said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville.
The Volusia County Beach Patrol said today that it has recorded one more than Burgess Â— 17. The record for the countyÂ’s beaches is 18 set in 1996.
Forty-one shark attacks have occurred worldwide since January. Thirty of them have been in the United States, 23 in Florida.
Chapman said she was attacked while sitting on her surf board in waist-deep water. The bite severed her Achilles tendon, nicked an artery and tore muscles in her left calf.
Â“When I was on the beach, they wouldnÂ’t let me look at my leg, but I reached down and felt it when I was still in the water,Â” Chapman said.
Â“ThatÂ’s what made me start panicking, when I felt how serious it was. ItÂ’s kind of gruesome ... when I put my hand down, I could feel the artery pumping.Â”
Chapman was in good condition today, but said she didnÂ’t expect to be released from Bert Fish Medical Center for another two days.
Dr. Arlen Stauffer, medical director of the hospitalÂ’s emergency department, said the attack Chapman suffered was typical of those treated at his hospital, though her wounds were more severe.
Â“WeÂ’ve had 45 shark bites that weÂ’ve treated in our ER (in the past five years); 28 of them were surfers,Â” Stauffer said. Â“But only about five of those bite victims had to be taken to the operating room.Â”
Many surfers were asking a higher power for safety before getting in the water. One young man, board in arm, twice made the sign of the Cross before diving into the surf.
Another surfer, 23-year-old Christie Bew, said: Â“I see them (the sharks) out there, so I say my prayers and hope that IÂ’m taken care of.Â”
Â“When you step into the water, you step into the food chain,Â” said one local, 52-year-old Woody Hart, who brought his camcorder to the beach today.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, said today that he would was looking into filing legislation that would regulate or potentially ban shark feeding off the Florida coast.
Â“There is a growing concern that with these shark feedings, sharks will eventually associate humans with food,Â” Justice said.
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