Beaches north of Miami remained largely empty on Thursday as panic spread after a bizarre incident in which sharks attacked and killed a kite-surfer off the eastern coast of Florida.
Stephen Schafer, 38, was spotted by a lifeguard as he was floating encircled by sharks and screaming for help off Stuart Beach, 150km north of Miami, police said.
The lifeguard brought the man to shore on his board and tried to resuscitate him on Wednesday before he was rushed to hospital where he died.
The beach, which has never before recorded a shark attack, was swiftly closed after the incident, but reopened on Thursday as shark experts called for calm.
“This is very tragic and this kind of incident generates a lot of panic, but deadly shark attacks are very rare,” said Neil Hammerschlag, a shark expert at the University of Miami. “Yearly, on average, just four people die from sharks. They usually don’t bite people unless they are provoked.”
Residents remained concerned though. “You always have the feeling that sharks are out there,” said Teague Taylor, one of Schafer’s friends. “But I have never heard of a group of sharks surrounding someone and causing their death.”
Schafer’s body had several deep wounds some 25cm long, his right bicep had been torn and he had gashes on his hand where he had apparently fought to defend himself.
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