Girl suffers possible shark bite
The lifeguard declined to close the beach because no sharks had been spotted all day. He said the wounds could have been made by another fish.

By Robin Campbell staff writer
September 15, 2003

STUART -- Martin County firefighters rushed a young girl to a local hospital Sunday afternoon after she was attacked by what could have been a small shark.

When the girl, described as 8 or 10 years old, came out of the water at Bathtub Reef Beach around 1:30 p.m. with blood dripping down her legs her mother carried her across the busy beach to a nearby lifeguard tower.

Sam Mahoney, a lifeguard with Martin County Fire Rescue's Marine Safety Division, said the little girl's wounds were superficial. "I didn't think it warranted closing the beaches," Mahoney said Sunday. "We haven't seen any sharks around this beach all day."

Mahoney said he wasn't sure a shark attacked the girl. The wounds on the girl's inner thighs seemed more like puncture wounds than tears from a shark bite, he said.

"If it had been a shark I think the wounds would've been more laid open," Mahoney said. "There wasn't a large loss of blood."

The bites could have been from a large blue fish or other fish with teeth, Mahoney said.

Still Mahoney admitted the girl was troubled by the attack.

"It was very painful for her and I'm sure it was traumatic," Mahoney said. "But she was pretty tough. Once I got her in the shade and calmed her down she seemed fine."

The girl's mother had already applied pressure to the wounds by the time Mahoney examined her. He cleaned the wounds and applied more pressure before rescue workers arrived and took her to a local hospital.

Nobody saw the attack. Most beachgoers only saw the mother carrying the screaming girl.

It was an unusually busy Sunday, Mahoney said, which made it especially difficult to keep tabs on everybody.

"It's very difficult on our part because it's such a busy time of year," he said. "There's a lot of swimmers and today it was abnormally busy."

With so many people in the water, Mahoney said the odds are greater that people will be attacked. He said Bathtub Reef beach experiences about one shark attack a year.

Fortunately the water between the beach and the reef is fairly shallow which makes it easier for swimmers to see passing ocean life, he said.

Meanwhile, a college student remained hospitalized Sunday, one day after he was bitten by a shark in Atlantic Ocean waters near Daytona Beach.

Aaron Edelson, 18, is continuing to recover from surgery at Daytona Beach's Halifax Medical Center, hospital officials said. The freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was boogie-boarding when he was attacked Saturday afternoon, and suffered severe injuries to his left calf.

"He said he felt something thrashing around his feet and then he felt the intense pain," Beach Patrol Capt. Ray Manchester told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Norma Reyes, a nurse who was on the beach, said Edelson's left calf was torn open in the attack.

"There were teeth marks all around" his calf, Reyes said.

It was the 10th bite reported in Volusia County this year, the first since June 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

- robin.campbell@scripps.com