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Four injured in Fourth of July shark attacks in Texas, Florida

A shark bit three people off a southern Texas beach in what the city’s fire chief called an unprecedented incident on the Fourth of July, the same day another person was bitten by a shark in Florida, officials said.

In Texas, three people were bitten in the city of South Padre Island, on a barrier island near Brownsville, and the shark was later located and “pushed out to deeper water,” Fire Chief Jim Pigg said.

“It’s unprecedented here on South Padre Island,” he said. There were two shark bite incidents at different times and locations Thursday, he said.

Police responded to a 911 call that reported “a severe shark bite to the leg” at 11 a.m., city spokesperson Nikki Soto said, and the victim was taken to a local hospital.

After a second 911 call about a shark attack, firefighters found two people who had been bitten by a shark, Pigg said. They were also taken to a hospital.

Kyle Jud, 46, said he saw a woman pulled from the water who appeared to have a bite to a leg.

“Beach patrol lifted her up — her calf was just gone, shredded. Horrific,” Jud said. He posted video of a shark in the water as a helicopter and a boat patrolled.

One of the victims was flown out of a Brownsville hospital for further treatment, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said.

“Shark encounters of this nature are not a common occurrence in Texas,” the department said. “When bites from sharks do occur, they are usually a case of mistaken identity by sharks looking for food.”

Pigg said that it has not been determined what type of shark was involved and that an investigation was underway.

Lifeguards were encouraging people in South Padre Island, a beach town of around 2,000 on the barrier island of the same name, to stay out of the water or at least to go no further than knee-deep, Pigg said.

After the shark was spotted and pushed out to deeper water, there had been no further sightings, but Pigg said officials would stay vigilant.

South Padre Island Mayor Patrick McNulty said, “Our hearts and prayers are with the injured and their families and we hope for a speedy recovery.” 

In New Smyrna Beach, Florida, a 21-year-old man was bitten by a shark while he was playing football in knee-deep water around 4 p.m., said Tamra Malphurs, interim director of Volusia County Beach Safety.

The man, who was visiting the city on the Atlantic coast from Ohio, was taken to a hospital, and his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening, Malphurs said.

There were 36 unprovoked shark attacks against humans in the U.S. last year, and two of those people died, the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File said in its most recent annual report.

The project, which documents shark attacks around the world, says that the risk of being attacked by a shark is relatively very small but that swimmers can minimize their risk even further by staying in groups and closer to shore.

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