A Kentucky teen visiting Florida for a softball tournament during spring break was attacked by a shark while swimming with friends, and only managed to escape the sea predator by punching it as it bit her, officials said.
Caitlyn Taylor, 17, suffered six puncture wounds to her leg while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico behind a condominium in Destin at about 3:40 p.m. Sunday, the Oskaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said.
The teen, who was visiting the area with her high school softball team, told police that she initially thought it was a dolphin heading toward her in a wave while she stood in waist-deep water.
But then the five-foot-long shark grabbed Taylor by the legs and tugged on her, Taylor and her friends told police.
As it bit her, the quick-thinking teen managed to punch the shark in an effort to drive it away, and when it let her go, she and her friends rushed out of the water, authorities said.
Emergency responders reported that Taylor suffered puncture wounds to her right leg near her knee and scrape wounds to her left leg.
Taylor was rushed to the Destin Emergency room, where police said she received 80 stitches to her right leg.
The girl’s mother, Tracey Taylor, told WHAS-TV that her daughter ultimately required between 120 and 140 stitches and had cuts to her hand, with upper and lower jaw marks left on both her legs.
"There's nothing minor about having to have 120-140 stitches," Tracey Taylor said.
It is unclear what kind of shark bit the girl.
The Florida Museum of Natural History, which documents shark attacks worldwide, said Sunday’s incident is only the fourth documented attack off Okaloosa County beaches since 1882, The Associated Press reported.
None of the attacks noted were fatal.