Swimmers Remember Shark Attack

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A day after a swimmer was fatally attacked by a shark in an inlet off the Gulf of Mexico, holiday vacationers wading in nearby waters kept the dangers in mind.

``Nobody knows if it's going to happen again,'' said Jack Walachowski of Chicago. ``I'll still swim, but maybe not out so far.''

A shark expert who helped investigators looking into the attack tried to soothe some fears, saying it was an isolated incident that shouldn't deter Labor Day beach-goers from entering the water.

``Folks shouldn't be terrified,'' said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. Sharks typically avoid humans, he said, but in rare instances they can mistake them for their usual prey, such as sea turtles and porpoises.

``It underscores the fact that the sea is basically a wilderness,'' Burgess said.

Thadeus Kubinski, a 69-year-old retiree, was swimming with his wife Wednesday when he was attacked in five-foot-deep waters off their dock in Boca Ciega Bay, an inlet off the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa.

Anna Kubinski saw her husband struggling with the shark and saw the shark's dorsal fin, she told family members and investigators. She got out of the water and ran for help.

Kubinski suffered massive chest wounds and died almost immediately.

Burgess, who assisted in the investigation, said the splashing likely attracted a shark feeding nearby. The murky waterway is home to schools of mullet and other fish, and the attack happened about 4 p.m., a time when sharks are actively hunting, he said.

Burgess said the shark was likely a bull shark 8 or 9 feet long and weighing more than 400 pounds. A tooth recovered from Kubinski's body was compared to other bull sharks to determine the size.

The death was Florida's first fatal shark attack since Nov. 21, 1998, when a 9-year-old boy was killed near Melbourne on the Atlantic coast. There have been five fatal attacks over the past 25 years, Burgess said.

Twenty-two people have been attacked by sharks in Florida so far this year, compared to 25 during 1999.

Stephen and Rachel Sinclair of Oxford, England, wading in the Gulf on Thursday with their three children, said they realize there's a very small chance of humans being bitten by sharks.

Even their 6-year-old daughter Katie wasn't afraid.

``She's a big fan of 'Jaws,''' Rachel Sinclair said. ``She cried when the shark got killed in the end.''


On the Web:

Sharks: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/sharks.htm

Shark attacks: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/1999attacksummary.htm