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Three Swimmers Attacked by Sharks Off Florida Panhandle

Walton County, FL – A popular beach destination along the Florida Panhandle turned into a scene of horror as three swimmers, including two teenagers, were attacked by sharks in two separate incidents on Friday. The attacks prompted authorities to close beaches and issue warnings to the public.

The First Incident

The first attack occurred at Watersound Beach around 1:20 p.m. A 45-year-old woman, swimming just past a sandbar with her husband, was bitten by a shark, according to South Walton Fire District Chief Ryan Crawford.

The woman, who has not been identified, suffered “significant trauma” to her midsection and part of her left arm had to be amputated. She was rushed to HCA Fort Walton-Destin Hospital in critical condition.

The Second Incident

Approximately 90 minutes later, and just four miles away at Seacrest Beach, a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl were attacked while swimming with friends near the first sandbar in waist-deep water.

One of the teens sustained “significant injuries” from the shark bite and was airlifted to Ascension Sacred Heart Pensacola Hospital in critical condition. The other teenager received flesh wounds to her foot and was taken to Ascension Bay Medical Center in stable condition.

Response and Investigation

Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson, Jr. reported that officials had ordered the beaches closed after the first incident, but the order was not fully enacted before the second attack occurred. The process of changing the beach warning flags along the coastline, which would take about an hour and a half, was still underway when the second attack happened.

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

Authorities have reached out to ocean wildlife experts at Mote Marine in Pensacola to assist in the investigation. Meanwhile, Walton County officials reopened the beaches on Saturday with extra patrols in the water and red and purple flags to warn swimmers.

Warnings and Precautions

The South Walton Fire District issued a statement emphasizing the importance of beachgoers remaining aware of the risks associated with open water, including marine life hazards.

“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,” the statement read.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office also announced double red flag warnings for its beaches on Saturday, noting that schooling bait fish near the shore might have contributed to the attacks.

Additional Incidents

The shark attacks in Florida were not isolated incidents. On the same day, a 25-year-old woman in Oahu’s North Shore was attacked by a shark around 2 p.m. local time. Honolulu Emergency Services reported that the woman was treated for multiple serious lacerations and transported to an emergency room. Her condition was unknown as of Saturday afternoon.

As investigations continue and authorities work to ensure the safety of beachgoers, the community remains on high alert, with officials urging caution and awareness while enjoying the waters of the Gulf Coast.

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