Gulf beaches reopen after shark attacks - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Gulf beaches reopen after shark attacks

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June 28, 2005

Panama City Beach, FL.-  On the beaches of Panama City, people are floating a lot closer to the shoreline than usual.

"It just seems like there's less people in the water, not going out quite as far, the ones that are in the water and that sort of thing," said John Fontanetta, a vacationer from Chicago.

More people are staying out of the water after 14-year-old Jamie Marie Daigle of Louisiana was attacked and killed by what was likely a bull shark Saturday morning in Destin. It is the only shark attack in Walton County history.

Attacks anywhere in the Gulf Coast, including Panama City, are rare. "In the 126 years recorded history, we've had one fatality associated with shark attacks," said Bob Warren, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.

Then Monday morning, 80 miles from the scene of Saturday's attack, 16-year-old Craig Hutto of Tennessee was bitten by a shark as he was fishing in shallow waters in Cape Sandblas outside Port St. Joe. His leg had to be amputated, but he is expected to be out of the hospital in a matter of weeks.

"We're in their environment and consequently, Florida does have an occasional shark attack," Warren said.

So most people on the beach are playing where the waves break or staying out of them all together, as helicopters hover over the water and purple flags fly, warning of dangerous marine life.

"I suppose your chances are pretty remote, but I don't know that anybody's taking a lot of chances right now," Fontanetta said.

Because, for many people, the slim chance of a shark attack doesn't make swimming at your own risk worth the time in the water.

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