3 swimmers attacked by sharks off Florida Panhandle


(WATERSOUND, Fla.) — Three swimmers, including two teens, were attacked by sharks in two separate incidents while they were at beaches in Walton County, Florida, on Friday, the authorities said.

A 45-year-old woman was swimming just past a sandbar with her husband at Watersound Beach when she was bitten by a shark around 1:20 p.m., South Walton Fire District Chief Ryan Crawford told reporters.

The unidentified woman sustained “significant trauma” to the midsection of her body, and part of her left arm had to be amputated, Crawford said. She was transported to HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital in critical condition.

Around 90 minutes later near Seacrest Beach, which is just four miles from Watersound Beach, a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl were with a group of friends near the first sandbar in waist-deep water when they were injured by a shark, according to Crawford.

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One victim was bitten by a shark and sustained “significant injuries,” and was flown to Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola Hospital in critical condition, Crawford said.

The second victim sustained flesh wounds to her foot and was transported to Ascension Bay Medical Center in stable condition.

Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. told reporters that officials ordered beaches to be closed after the first incident, however, the order was not fully enacted in time before the teens were attacked.

Authorities also said that the process of changing the beach warning flags along the coastline would have taken about an hour and a half to complete.

Sheriff Adkinson Jr. said the last shark attack in the county was back in 2021 and the last shark-related fatality was in 2005.

“This is an anomaly … everything from it being three victims, to where it’s at,” the sheriff said. “All we can do is respond control, and mitigate what we can.”

Walton County authorities have reached out to ocean wildlife experts at Mote Marine in Pensacola, Florida, to help in the investigation of the incident, Sheriff Adkinson Jr. said.

Walton County officials reopened the beaches Saturday with extra patrols in the water and red and purple flags to warn swimmers.

“It is important to us that beach patrons recognize and understand the risk of the open water as it pertains not just to surf hazards, but marine life. We ask you to remain situationally aware at all times,” South Walton Fire District said in a statement.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office also announced double red flag warnings for its beaches Saturday and had more information on what may be attracting the sharks.

“Sheriff Tommy Ford has been in conversation with [the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] and has learned that bait fish are schooling near the shore at this time of year which may have been a contributing factor in the attacks,” the office said in a statement.

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