Fla. kiteboarder dies in shark attack
TUART, Fla. - A kiteboarder died after being attacked by sharks off South Florida’s Atlantic Coast, marking the state’s first deadly attack in five years.
A lifeguard spotted Stephen Howard Schafer, 38, in distress about 500 yards off the beach Wednesday about 100 miles north of Miami.
When the lifeguard paddled out, he found Schafer bleeding and surrounded by several sharks.
Schafer was taken to a hospital and died a short time later, said Rhonda Irons, a spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities are investigating what types of sharks might have been involved. Beaches remained open yesterday.
Shark attacks, especially fatal ones, are extremely rare, said George Burgess, a leading shark expert who directs the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.
The attack on Schafer was the 14th deadly one in the state since 1896.
“Internationally, we’ve been averaging four fatalities per year,’’ Burgess said yesterday.
The last fatal shark attack in the state was in 2005 off the Florida Panhandle, where a 14-year-old Louisiana girl was attacked while swimming on a body board about 100 yards off shore.