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Sharks may be off the hook for second attack

Jessie showing some small signs of progress

This shark attacked Jessie Arbogast, 8, off the Florida coast
This shark attacked Jessie Arbogast, 8, off the Florida coast  

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- A shark may not have been responsible for biting the foot of a surfer over the weekend, just miles from where a shark seriously mauled an 8-year-old boy, hospital officials said Wednesday.

Michael Waters, 48, was surfing off Pensacola Beach in Florida on Sunday when he noticed a dark shadow beneath the surface. Moments later, he said, his left foot and heel were bitten.

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Waters said he hit the animal with his surfboard and it let go, allowing him to swim to shore for help. He underwent surgery at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola Sunday night to repair the wounds and was released the next day.

Hospital officials Monday said Waters did suffer a shark bite, but they backed away from the claim Wednesday, saying they had not been able to confirm independently that a shark was responsible. The surgeon said she had simply taken Waters' word that he was bitten by a shark.

Jessie showing some small signs of progress

But Waters told CNN on Wednesday it was the doctors who told him his wounds were caused by a shark. "I can't imagine it was anything else, but I could be wrong," he said.

Waters' accident came nine days after 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast was severely wounded by a shark in knee-deep water at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, about seven miles away. The animal tore off Jessie's arm and a large portion of his thigh.

Jessie's uncle helped wrestle the 7-foot bull shark to shore, where a park ranger killed it. Pictures of the dead shark on the beach were broadcast widely after the event.

Jessie's arm was reattached in more than 11 hours of surgery at Baptist Hospital. He was then transferred to Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, part of the same complex where Waters was treated. Both of the hospitals are in Pensacola. The boy's recovery has been hampered by his severe blood loss, which also endangered many of his organs.

Doctors at Sacred Heart said Wednesday that Jessie was in critical but stable condition and was improving neurologically. They said the small signs that indicate improvement include coughing, yawning, moving his head sideways.

-- CNN National Correspondent Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.

• Shark Attacks in Perspective

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