NINTH person in a week bitten by shark off Florida's New Smyrna Beach

Sunday, August 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A shark attacked an 18-year-old surfer Saturday, the ninth person bitten off the same beach in the past week.

Ben Gibbs was nipped on his upper left thigh and right foot. The attack occurred about a mile south of a one-mile stretch of beach that officials closed for the weekend, said Capt. Robert Horster of the Volusia County Beach Patrol.

The teen-ager was not seriously injured and was taken by friends to a hospital.

There have been at least 19 shark attacks off New Smyrna Beach this year _ almost half the number reported in the world. The beach _ about 15 miles south of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic coast_ is considered one of Florida's best surfing spots, and the water contains numerous small fish, drawing the sharks.

But despite the attacks and warning signs posted along the beach, the sands were crowded Saturday with families and shark lovers carrying binoculars. Some people cruised the waters on Jet Skis scanning for sharks, said Allison Wigley, a bartender at Toni and Joe's Patio.

Cars lined up along the beach and small boats packed the Atlantic waters, said Rob Meagher, a bartender at The Breakers Restaurant and Ocean View Bar overlooking the closed area.

``There's no fear, but a lot of curiosity,'' Meagher said. ``A lot of people are sitting and gawking.''

Two trucks patrolled the closed portion of the beach to keep people away.

Drink-holders with the slogan ``Shark Attack Party Time'' were seen around town and an incense shop marketed oil named ``shark repellent.''

Meagher said the restaurant might also offer appetizers made from shark on Sunday, just ``to get back at 'em.''

A helicopter survey of the waters off New Smyrna Beach on Saturday did not show as many sharks as Friday, when 30 to 40 sharks were spotted. But that does not mean sharks are not lurking in the murky waters, Horster said.

``We're pretty busy,'' said Seaba Sharp, a front desk clerk at the Oceania Beach Club, which is about a mile south of the closed area. ``It hasn't really kept people away.''