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Shark bites 5-year-old girl in Galveston

Attacks rare in area

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GALVESTON, Texas – A 5-year-old girl was injured Tuesday after being bitten on the leg by a shark at Pirates Beach, Galveston officials said.

A father and his two children were returning to shore from swimming about 5:30 p.m. when she was bit.

The father said his daughter was in knee-deep water, on a ring, flutter-kicking while bait fish jumped around her.

The father heard his daughter scream, saw the 3- to 4-foot-long white-bellied shark and pulled his daughter away and ran to shore. The shark immediately let go and swam away, said Peter Davis, the head of Galveston's beach patrol.

"That worries me because I have a 1-year-old," Jessica Rosales, who is vacationing, said.

A bystander applied a tourniquet.

The child suffered significant soft tissue damage, authorities said. She was bit below her calf, above her left foot. Her foot was still attached and the bone was not damaged.

The head of the Galveston Area Ambulance Authority, Nathan Jung, said a good Samaritan helped slow the girl's bleeding while the family waited for an ambulance.

"Some bystanders tied a tourniquet around her using a dog leash," Jung said.

Davis believes a school of bait fish was the shark's intended meal.

"Our belief is the shark bit this little girl's leg thinking it was a fish," Davis said.

Davis was quick to point out this was a bite, not an attack. He says a bite is a case of mistaken identity.

"A shark attack would involve multiple bites where the shark intended to eat the person as prey," Davis said.

She was transported to the University of Texas Medical Branch in stable condition.

Davis said this is the first official bite of the year, but he is also quick to point out shark bites are exceedingly rare in Galveston. In the 34 years he's been working these beaches he said he's only had 10 or 11 bites.