SOUTH WALTON Fla. (WMBB) — A 14-year-old boy is in “great spirits” and recovering after he was bitten by a shark in the Gulf of Mexico off Grayton beach Thursday.
Officials on the scene called it a case of mistaken identity because the shark thought it was biting a fishing line and let go once it realized it was a human. They added that shark bite has not occurred in the area since 2005.
The bite left shark tooth puncture wounds in the boy’s upper body.
“I spoke to him and his family at the hospital,” said South Walton Fire District Beach Safety Director David Vaughan. “He was in great spirits. He ended up with 46 stitches, he’s going to be fine.”
Vaughan said witnesses saw a fisherman near the shore and instead of the shark biting the fish on the line, it mistakenly bit the boy.
“It whipped around and took an exploratory chomp on him, and he made it back in fine and the shark swam off,” said Vaughan.
Although this young man will have an interesting story, statistically Vaughan said there is a higher chance of getting injured in the parking lot at the beach than from a shark bite.
“We don’t want people to get into a panic,” said Vaughan. “And inflate the incident and make it something bigger than it needs to be.”
South Walton flew double red flags after the incident to make sure there wasn’t a lingering shark threat.
“Patrols and we had law enforcement down there responding and we just cleared the water for about an hour per protocol,” He said.
Being aware while you are in the water is the best way to ensure your safety.
“They are out there in their element, and we aren’t their natural prey out there, so in the predator-prey relationship, we are not on the menu in the Gulf Coast,” said Vaughan.