Walton County Agencies Respond to Two Shark Related Incidents June 7

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SWFD Beach Shark Rescue

South Walton Fire District and Walton County Sheriff’s Office, Florida responded to two shark-related incidents Friday, June 7, 2024. Two people were critically injured, and one other person suffered minor injuries.

The first incident originated around 1:20 p.m. when multiple 911 callers reported an approximately 45-year-old woman was bitten by a shark as she was swimming past the first sandbar near WaterSound Beach. Bystanders began rendering care to the woman before SWFD lifeguards and WCSO deputies arrived on scene.

Once they arrived on-scene, they found the woman sustained critical injuries on her hip and lower left arm. They initiated treatment, then SWFD firefighters continued care and transported the patient to Walton Air Rescue. The patient was airlifted to a local trauma facility to receive further treatment for her injuries.

The second incident took place near Seacrest Beach at approximately 2:55 p.m., four miles east of the first incident. It involved two female patients who were approximately 15 years old. According to bystanders, the individuals were in waist-deep water with a group of friends when the incident occurred.

When lifeguards and deputies arrived on the scene, they found one of the females had significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand. The other female had minor injuries on one foot. The patient with significant injuries was treated on-scene, then transported by SWFD firefighters to Okaloosa MedFlight. She was then airlifted to a trauma facility for further treatment. SWFD also transported the second patient to the hospital.

Following the incidents, beach flags were changed to double red Friday to indicate the water was closed for swimming out of an abundance of caution.

The beaches were back open Saturday, June 8, utilizing the red and purple flags out of an abundance of caution due to Friday’s incidents. Walton County Sheriff’s Office, Florida, MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife, and South Walton Fire District worked together to patrol the water and shoreline with boats and vehicles.

Sheriff Adkinson stated the last fatal shark encounter in Walton County occurred in 2005, and the last shark incident occurred in 2021. ”This is an anomaly … everything from it being three victims, to where it’s at,” the sheriff said. “All we can do is respond, control, and mitigate what we can.” Walton County authorities have reached out to experts to help in the investigation of the incident, Sheriff Adkinson said.

“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,” South Walton Fire District said in a statement.

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office also announced double red flag warnings for its beaches the same Friday, utilized purple and red flags the next day, and had some more information on what may be attracting the sharks.

“Sheriff Tommy Ford has been in conversation with the FWC and has learned that bait fish are schooling near the shore at this time of year, which may have been a contributing factor in the attacks,” the office said in a statement.

Some Facebook commenters said they observed what they thought were bull sharks in the area on the day of the incidents. In this video, one went after a duck: https://www.facebook.com/share/r/QeGdnPJeGRH9j4E1/