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Shark Kills Teen in Florida

June 26, 2005|From Times Wire Reports

DESTIN, Fla. — A 14-year-old girl died in a shark attack Saturday in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle, authorities said.

She and a friend were on boogie boards about 100 yards offshore when they saw a shadow in the water, authorities said. The other teenager was not injured, Walton County sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Shank said.

Tim Dicus, 54, had been surfing when he heard a scream.

"I immediately paddled over and found her floating facedown in the center of the blood pool," Dicus told Associated Press. Much of her thigh was missing, he said. "And right next to her was the shark, about to come up and attack her again."

The girl's friend had begun swimming toward shore.

Dicus said he put the injured girl on his surfboard and the shark -- which he said appeared to be a bull shark about 8 feet long -- went after her hand.

"He just followed us right to the beach," Dicus said. The shark tried to attack Dicus too, the surfer said, so he punched the shark's nose.

Two other swimmers helped tow the girl ashore.

The girl was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, Shank said.

The girl was on vacation from Gonzales, La. Her name was not immediately released.

The attack happened near the Camping on the Gulf Holiday Travel Park, which is about 45 miles east of Pensacola.

After the attack, swimmers were ordered out of the water along 20 miles of crowded beach.

It was not immediately clear whether they would be allowed back in today.

Fatal shark attacks are rare. Seven were reported worldwide among 61 unprovoked shark attacks last year, according to the International Shark Attack File, a group at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Thirty shark attacks were reported in the United States last year. Florida, which routinely has the most in the nation, had 12 last year, down from an annual average of more than 30 over the four previous years. None was fatal.

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