Shark-bite tally climbs to 20
By MARK I. JOHNSON
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — As the number of bites this year rose to 20 Monday, Beach Patrol officials said they were not going to risk injury to their people just to prevent someone from surfing with sharks.
William Goettel, 69, New Smyrna Beach, became the 10th victim of a shark encounter in the past 10 days about 4:30 p.m. Monday while swimming near the 27th Avenue beach approach.
According to Capt. Dave Williams of the Beach Patrol, Goettel told his officers he was in murky, waist-deep water when he felt something grab the heel of his left foot.
"He said it grabbed and then released," Williams said. "He never saw it."
Goettel left the scene by car after being treated by Beach Patrol officers. Williams said he stated he would seek further medical attention if he deemed it necessary.
"He identified himself as a retired medical worker," Williams said.
The attack occurred several miles south of another area of shark activity that has become a hotbed of controversy. In the face of growing challenges from the surfing community, Beach Patrol officials decided Monday to take no action against individuals violating the surfing and swimming ban south of Ponce de Leon Inlet.
Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron likened the situation to a hurricane evacuation.
"We do our best to warn people of the need to evacuate, but if people choose not to evacuate we do not arrest them," he said.
The Beach Patrol extended its surfing and swimming moratorium to a fifth day after officials flew over the one-mile stretch of sand between the south jetty and the Beachway Avenue beach approach early Monday and reported seeing more than 30 sharks in the water. An afternoon flight showed there were about a dozen sharks in the area.
Williams said the flyovers did not show any sharks in the area where Goettel was bitten, but they could have come in from deeper waters.
Goettel´s encounter raises the bite toll in Volusia waters to 10 since Aug. 18; seven of those incidents occurred in the area that is now closed.
However, the 3- to 4-foot waves Monday were too tempting for some, who decided to ignore warnings and closures.
"I am going to stand up for my rights," said one young surfer. "I believe it is my right to go surfing."
The surfer, who declined to give his name, defied a Beach Patrol officer´s orders not to enter the water shortly after 11:30 a.m. He surfed for about an hour before coming back to shore to be greeted by a horde of television reporters with cameras and microphones.
"Why don´t you all go home," he said while being peppered with questions.
Deputy Chief Joe Wooden said his supervisors, including Volusia County Director of Public Protection Terry Moore, decided early Monday afternoon they were not willing to risk the safety of their officers to keep surfers out of the water, sharks or no sharks.
"The surfing community was getting defiant," Wooden said. "And it was realized while there was still a danger we did not want to put our employees in harm´s way."
Wooden said the Beach Services department had heard rumors of a "mass paddle" protest by local surfers in the closed area and that possibility was weighed as part of the department´s decision.
So instead of greeting surfers with handcuffs, officers warned them sharks were still in the water but did nothing to stop those who were determined to enter the surf.
"We are trying to settle things down and not create additional hostilities," Wooden said.
Once word spread that no arrests would be made, other surfers quickly headed out to enjoy the waves.
Dan Marlow of New Smyrna Beach said it felt good to be back on the water.
"It is really clean out there and there aren´t many people," he said. "It´s a good day."
Marlow said sharks are part of surfing and placed the blame for the moratorium on the media, saying it needed to move on to something else.
Byron admitted public relations was a factor in the county´s decision to make the water off-limits, but safety was the primary issue.
"Our philosophy on the beach is to keep people safe in a non- confrontational way. There is no need to get into a confrontation and arrest someone for doing something foolish," he said.
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