Shark attacks injure 3 along Florida Panhandle beaches

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File, the Sunshine State reported 16 shark attacks in 2023, which was the highest concentration in the U.S.

WALTON COUNTY, Fla. – Shark encounters along Florida beaches injured three swimmers Friday, along what are usually quiet, pristine vacation areas. 

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office said the incidents occurred north of Panama City Beach around what are known as Watersound and Seacrest beaches in the Florida Panhandle.

Officials said the injuries of the victims ranged from non-life-threatening to critical, but all were fortunate to receive quick care from first responders and fellow beachgoers.

The first incident occurred around 1:20 p.m. local time when a woman was swimming with her husband and received life-threatening bites from a shark. Due to her injures, emergency crews said the victim was airlifted to a medical center, where she was last reported to be in critical condition.

About 90 minutes after the first attack, authorities said they were alerted to a second incident about 4 miles away which involved a group of teenagers. First responders said two teens suffered various injuries consistent with a shark attack in waist-deep water. One of the teenage girls was transported to a trauma center in Pensacola and the other was taken to a nearby hospital.


Authorities have contacted marine life experts to determine if there are abnormalities in the attacks or whether swimmers were just in the right place at the wrong time.

After the attacks, double red flags were flying along the county's beaches, which meant the Gulf of Mexico was closed to swimmers. The beaches were reopened Saturday, but officials urged caution.

"We prioritize your safety," emergency officials said on X, formerly Twitter. "Please swim carefully, respect the Gulf, stay hydrated, and look out for your loved ones."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said swimmers and surfers should always avoid being in the water during twilight hours when sharks are most active.

Beachgoers are always advised not to enter the water if they have an open wound or are wearing shiny jewelry - both can attract sharks.

Frequency of shark attacks

Data from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File shows shark attacks are fairly rare along the Florida Panhandle with about a dozen cases reported during the last 142 years.

The sheriff's office said they recall at least two previous incidents involving sharks in Walton County. In 2005, a teen was on a boogie board when she was attacked and ultimately passed away from her injuries. In 2021, a 14-year-old male was attacked while swimming and survived.