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Swimmer attacked by shark in Bahamas; 2nd in two weeks

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A shark-attack victim, flown from the Bahamas to Miami late Thursday, was in good condition Friday at Jackson Memorial Hospital, officials said.

The 43-year-old man, who said he was bitten on the left calf while snorkeling, is the second shark-bite victim from Freeport in two weeks.

Officials declined to name the man, though the general manager of the air-ambulance service that brought the victim to the mainland identified him as an American.

The victim was treated at the same hospital as Krishna Thompson, 36, a New York banker who was attacked by a shark August 4 while swimming in the surf off Freeport. Thompson, in the Bahamas with his wife to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary, lost his lower left leg.

The latest shark attack highlights a summer in which the finned predators have figured prominently in news headlines and tourists' fears, despite researchers' assurances that this year is no more hazardous for ocean bathers than previous vacation seasons.

A bull shark cruising in knee-deep waters off Gulf Islands National Seasore near Pensacola, Florida, ripped the right arm off 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast on July 6. The boy's uncle retrieved the arm, which surgeons reattached in a 12-hour operation. The Ocean Springs, Mississippi, boy was released from the hospital this week.

In May, a surfer off Jacksonville, Florida, told physicians a shark attacked him, biting his foot twice before swimming away. Also recently, a 48-year-old man was bitten on the leg while surfing near Santa Rosa Island off the Florida Panhandle.

Schools of sharks also massed in the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico just north of Tampa, Florida, earlier this week, attracting throngs of researchers, tourists and reporters.

Puzzled scientists were at a loss to explain why so many sharks, most of them relatively harmless blacktips and nurse sharks, had congregated so suddenly. They were equally nonplussed when the fish dispersed two days later as quickly as they had gathered.

The flurry of sightings and attacks also underscores the release this summer of Michael Capuzzo's "Close to Shore," a book detailing a series of shark attacks along the Jersey Shore in 1916.

Years later, that event inspired Peter Benchley to write "Jaws," which became the 1975 blockbuster film that prompted vacationers everywhere to consider a week in the mountains instead of at the seaside.

Despite the recent scares, statistics at the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Florida, prove that summer 2001 has been no deadlier than earlier vacation seasons. This has not been a year of abnormal shark activity, specialists say.

Earlier this week, before the latest attack, the center had reported 16 attacks in Florida so far this year, with 31 incidents reported worldwide. Last year, the center reported, 34 attacks took place in Florida -- one a fatality -- with 70 attacks worldwide. Ten of them were fatal.

• Center For Shark Research

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