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Pete Beach Wildlife News
19-year-old Admiral Farragut grad swimming
behind her home in St. Pete Beach
By Jamal Thalji and Kameel
Stanley, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Thursday, July 23, 2009
ST. PETE BEACH — Handyman Wilbur Drummond
was working next door when he joked
to the young woman swimming in the murky
waters of Boca Ciega Bay that she better
"I said, 'Girl
you better get out of the water,' "
he said. "What if some big fish
takes a bite out?"
Minutes later, he heard
The 19-year-old woman
was bitten by a shark while swimming
behind her home on Wednesday afternoon,
according to St. Pete Beach Fire Rescue.
Jenna James was bitten
below her right knee, according to St.
Pete Beach Fire Marshal Ernie Hand.
She was in the water just 10 to 12 yards
from her backyard dock when she was
attacked by an as-yet-unidentified species
The wound was considered
serious but not life-threatening, Hand
said. He did not believe the victim
was in danger of losing her leg. James,
a graduate of Admiral Farragut Academy,
was taken to Bayfront Medical Center
for emergency treatment.
She was rescued from
the water by her sister, according to
the fire marshal. The sister pulled
her injured sibling out of the water
and was treating her wounds when paramedics
"Her sister, I
think, falls in the line of an everyday
hero," Hand said. "Her sister
did a great job tending to her. She
wrapped the wound in several towels
which became a pressure bandage."
James was conscious
while en route to the hospital, the
fire marshal said. The incident took
place about 3 p.m. at the family's home
at 7015 Boca Ciega Drive.
Drummond, 44, said the
sister called him over to help secure
the family's dog before paramedics arrived.
He said the flesh on James's bloody
leg looked like it had been shredded.
The attack occurred
less than 3 miles from the scene of
the last shark bite fatality in the
Tampa Bay area. On Aug. 30, 2000, a
9-foot, 400-pound bull shark killed
Thadeus Kubinski, 69, who was swimming
off his own backyard dock at 4321 Holland
Drive. The shark crushed his rib cage
and tore his liver, authorities said.
The 2000 attack took
place in front of his horrified wife.
Kubinski bled to death, the medical
Sharks are attracted
by splashing, and experts believe the
shark that attacked Kubinski was attracted
by the splash he made jumping into the
water. But there are also bait fish
in the water, and most shark attacks
are the result of mistaken identity.
The bull shark is the
largest and most dangerous species of
shark that inhabits local waters, especially
shallow waters. It is also among the
species most likely to attack humans.
But blacktip and spinner
sharks are more common and together
are responsible for more shark attacks.
They're also smaller.
The first recorded fatal
attack in Pinellas County is believed
to have taken place 87 years ago. Dorothy
McClatchie, 18, was bitten in the thigh
while swimming a mile off St. Petersburg.
A "monster fish" twice bit
her in the leg, according to news accounts,
and she bled to death.
Tampa Bay waters — including
Manatee County — have seen 16 shark
attacks, three of which have been fatal,
according to the University of Florida's
International Shark Attack File.
In 1981 a fatal attack
took place in Manatee County waters
between Anna Maria Island and Egmont
Key. Mark Meeker, 26, suffered a fatal
leg wound inflicted by a tiger or hammerhead
has seen two deaths and 12 attacks,
including Wednesday's encounter. It
was the fourth attack in Pinellas waters
since Kubinski died in 2000.
Previous attacks took
place in 2004 in Big Bayou and in 2005
at Sand Key Beach. The county's last
reported shark attack was in May. That's
when 39-year-old Dana Joseph of Orlando
got 11 stitches in his foot after he
said he was bitten by a shark while
wading off Clearwater Beach near Pier
The latest victim, Jenna
James, is a 2008 graduate of Admiral
Farragut and was the St. Petersburg
military school's co-valedictorian last
year. According to Admiral Farragut's
alumni magazine, she graduated with
a 4.35 GPA, ran track and cross country,
and was a member of the National Honor
Society and student government. She
also volunteered at Treasure Island
"She's a very nice,
quiet girl," said Admiral Farragut
athletic director Joe Holtzclaw, who
was on vacation and hadn't heard about
the incident until contacted by a reporter.
"She was one of our brightest."
James planned to attend
New York University, according to the
magazine, and planned to major in creative
Her family declined
to comment to the St. Petersburg Times
on Wednesday and asked Bayfront Medical
Center not to release any information
about her condition.
Times researcher Shirl
Kennedy, staff writer Bob Putnam and
staff photographer Cherie Diez contributed
to this report.