DESTIN, Fla. (AP) – A 14-year-old girl died Saturday after a shark attacked her while she and a companion were swimming in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle, authorities said.

The teenagers were swimming on boogie boards about 100 yards offshore when they noticed a dark shadow in the water, authorities said. The other swimmer was not injured, Walton County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Donna Shank said.

Both girls swam to shore, and the victim was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, Shank said. The girl was on vacation from Gonzales, La., but her name was not immediately released.

Jeff White, 49, of Atlanta, said his son was one of three men who brought the girl to shore in a raft.

“He said at one point, the shark was underneath them,” White said. “So they stopped paddling. Somebody distracted the shark and they brought the girl the rest of the way in.”

It was not clear what type of shark attacked her, said Stan Kirkland, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“The girl was some distance off from the shore,” Kirkland said. “I don’t think anyone got a good view of the shark.”

The attack happened near the Camping on the Gulf Holiday Travel Park, about 45 miles east of Pensacola. Swimmers were ordered out of the water along 20 miles of crowded beaches shortly after the attack. It was not immediately clear whether they will be allowed back in today.

Robert Goodwin, 12, of St. Louis, Mo., said he was ordered out of the water by authorities. “I didn’t know that when I was told to get out it was a shark,” he said. “I was like, what? Wow, that’s not cool.”

Added Goodwin’s father, Mark: “It was just an eery feeling to see folks sitting there on the beach.”

Florida averaged more than 30 shark attacks a year from 2000 to 2003, but there were only 12 attacks off the state’s coast last year, according to statistics compiled by the American Elasmobranch Society and the Florida Museum of Natural History.


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