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Lightning closes Florida beaches after weekend shark bites

Shark in the water near Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday.
Shark in the water near Daytona Beach, Florida, on Saturday.  


NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (CNN) -- Beachgoers on the lookout for sharks near an area where six people were attacked over the weekend were evacuated Monday by the Volusia County Beach Patrol because of a different threat -- lightning.

Volusia County Beach Patrol officials shut down all the beaches in the area after several temporary closures due to shark sightings.

Six people were bitten by sharks over the weekend in the same area. Only one victim remained hospitalized Monday.

"Anywhere in the world, you go in the ocean, you're going to have sharks," said Capt. Rob Horster with the New Smyrna Beach Patrol. "It's not a major problem for us. Unfortunately, when you have three bites in a day and then three the next, you're going to have a lot of attention drawn towards you."

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CNN's Alexa Lee says two young men and a teen-age girl received non-fatal bites in the latest round of shark encounters (August 20)

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Amateur video of a shark in shallow water off New Smyrna Beach, Florida (August 18)

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The Volusia County Beach Patrol shut down one beach near New Smyrna Beach for about 45 minutes after a shark was spotted Monday, Horster told CNN. He said one surfer was not thrilled about being called out of the water and got into a verbal spat with Horster, who was able to calmly persuade the man to leave.

Horster explained that it is standard procedure to shut down a beach for 30 to 45 minutes when a shark is seen. About an hour later, the patrol temporarily shut down the same beach when another shark was spotted.

On Saturday, three young men involved in a surfing competition in Ponce de Leon Inlet were bitten.

Jeff White, one of those bitten, said that "sharks are just something you've got to deal with."

White, 20, said the shark was behind him. He said he tried to pull his feet onto his surfboard but "it had already grabbed my foot and it was too late."

White -- who was hit by lightning while surfing off Costa Rica two years ago -- said surfing gives him an "adrenaline rush. ... It's a great recreation."

On Sunday, three more people were bitten in an area around Daytona Beach. They were not involved with the surfing competition.

Only Becky Chapman, 17, who had surgery for a "significant bite" on her left calf, remained hospitalized Monday, according to Kate Holcomb, a spokeswoman for Bert Fish Medical Center. She was in good condition, but Chapman was not expected to be released Monday, Holcomb said.

Horster said the weekend rash of shark bites may have been the result of bait fish in the area, murky water and a lot of people in the surf.

"Mix all those things together, you're going to have some bites, unfortunately. ... We closed the beach for half a day yesterday, which is a lot more than we generally do for any kind of shark sighting," he said.

As for the surfing competition, Leon Johnston of the National Scholastic Surf Association said it wasn't called off Saturday when sharks were spotted because "the parents didn't want to cancel the competition. The kids didn't want to cancel the competition." The competition was moved about one mile south Sunday.

Johnston said surfers on Saturday saw black-tip sharks up to 6 feet long and bull sharks reaching 8 feet. He said shark sightings occur every year, and he did not see the danger as very great.

"What's happening down at our inlet happens every time at this time of the year, and for years it's been going on. For as many sharks as there are in the water and as many people, if you did the numbers on it, it really wasn't that many encounters at all."

Johnston said the sharks were chasing bait fish such as whiting.

"The bottom of your feet look like a whiting, and that's basically their main diet down there is whiting. That's the reason when the kids got bit they let them go right away and nothing fatal. ... So it really didn't tear them up too badly," he said.






RELATED STORIES:
RELATED SITES:
• International Shark Attack File
• Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

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