It’s going to be a while before 11-year-old Riley Breihan gets back in the water, given the shark attack that the young girl from Florida luckily escaped and survived. In addition to scarring on her lower leg, Riley will always have a baby shark tooth — which broke off into her skin — to remember her close encounter by.
"At first I wasn't thinking about pain, I was thinking I got bit by a shark and I have to go to the emergency room," Riley told WKMG Local 6. "Then I felt the sting and it hurt real bad."
The attack occurred while Riley was boogie boarding in knee-deep water at WinterHaven Park in Ponce Inlet this past Sunday. After standing up, she felt something “attach to her leg.” Two good Samaritans in vicinity quickly wrapped the frightened girl up in towels and whisked her to safety.
Soon after the attack, Riley was taken to the emergency room of a nearby hospital where doctors confirmed a shark bite on her lower leg and heel. Hospital staff also suspected a sand shark to be the culprit in this dangerous encounter.
The shark tooth, which Riley plans to keep as a souvenir of her harrowing experience, was discovered during a thorough inspection of her wounds. This is the second confirmed shark attack in Volusia County this year.
Bob Hueter, director of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, calls Florida’s title as the Shark Attack Capital of the World “very misleading.” His dispute mainly rests on the term “attack.”
"Not all shark-human encounters are created equal. To use the word 'attack' to describe every incident is just not accurate,” Hueter told the Tampa Bay Times. His discretion caused him and his colleague Christopher Neff of the University of Sydney in Australia to come up with four categories that differentiate incidences involving sharks:
- Shark sightings: Sightings of sharks in the water in proximity to people, with no physical contact.
- Shark encounters: No bite takes place and no humans are injured, but physical contact occurs with a person or an inanimate object holding a person, such as a surfboard or boat. A shark might also bump a swimmer and its rough skin might cause a minor abrasion.
- Shark bites: Bites by small or large sharks that result in minor to moderate injuries.
- Fatal shark bites: One or more bites causing fatal injuries.