Monday, December 6, 2010

A safe place for a swim!!!

Most people wouldn't think twice before jumping in here!

Residents of Boca Ciega Drive say they're less tempted to swim from their backyards after Wednesday's shark attack. The briny water in the little cove nestled into the corner of Boca Ciega Drive and Bay Street was glass calm today, a day after a swirl of teeth and fins left a frantic teenager screaming and bleeding.

For residents along this quiet waterfront neighborhood, the shark bite was somewhat unsettling, but it would do little to change their habits. Jenna James, a graduate of Admiral Farragut Academy who now attends New York University, was lounging on an inflatable raft just a few yards from her dock around 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 23. The 19-year-old was spotted by her neighbor, Frank McMillan, just before it happened.

He and a friend were working in the backyard of McMillan's mother's home and saw James on the raft, he said. 'I had just talked to her,' McMillan said. He walked inside to get something to drink and in the span of about five minutes, he heard a commotion and walked out to see James' sister attending to the teen on the dock. 'It looked pretty bad,' McMillan said.

James was bitten in the lower right leg. She was taken to Bayfront Medical Center where she was treated and held overnight. Emergency medical officials said the injuries were not life threatening. A hospital spokeswoman this morning said the family did not wish to talk to the media and asked that the hospital not release condition updates.

McMillan said he occasionally jumps into the bay behind his mother's home. 'I was swimming out there on Mother's Day,' he said. James and her sister go swimming out there all the time, he said. 'They have a ladder on the dock for that.' He said his mother, Loretta, has lived in the home for about 10 years and he has fished from the dock behind the home more than he has jumped in. 'All I've ever caught is pinfish and catfish,' he said. No sharks.

Nine years ago, on a dock not far from here, 69-year-old Thadeus Kubinski jumped into the water, right in front of a large bull shark that took one bite and killed the man.

Bob Hueter, director of the center for shark research at Mote Marine in Sarasota, said it's not unusual for sharks to be in that area this time of year. The most dangerous may be bull sharks, he said. 'They grow to be fairly large and they do come up into the brackish areas and will go after large prey.'

It would only be speculation about the type of shark that attacked James, he said. 'It could have been one of several different species,' Hueter said. 'It could even be a juvenile bull. 'Little sharks still have sharp teeth and if they come up, grab and twist, they can do some damage. No shark bite is trivial.'

He recalled the attack in the same area nine years ago. 'Two attacks is not exactly a trend,' he said. 'I wouldn't start worrying about that area.' Concern would rise when more than one bite is recorded during a single season, he said. Two shark bites in the same area nine years apart are not beyond the norm. 'Over the past nine years,' he said, 'probably thousands of people have been swimming in there.'

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