80 stitches from shark bite? No problem for this 9-year-old Floridian eager to hit the waves again

NORTH PALM BEACH — Despite more than 80 stitches from a shark bite, 9-year-old Sebastian Cozzan is expected to be back surfing, according to his father — who himself was bitten by a shark in the same area off John D. MacArthur State Park two decades ago.

“He’s doing great. He loves the water,” said his father David. “He’s a kid. They recover fast.”

Sebastian, a third-grader at St. Clare Catholic School in North Palm Beach, is recovering at home after he was bitten Friday on his right foot and treated at St. Mary’s Medical Center. He is on crutches, and the stitches are expected to come out in about a week, his father said.

He told a local TV station that he kicked the shark inside the mouth to get away.

David Cozzan, a salesman for the Riviera Beach-based food distributor Cheney Brothers, said he was 19 years old when he was bitten by a shark on his left foot while surfing in the same area.

“The bite wasn’t close to the extent of the bite my son received. I did not require any stitches,” David said.

Sebastian was about 20 feet offshore when the shark attacked, between where the sand drops off and the sandbar begins.

There have been other shark attacks recently in Palm Beach County. Sharks, especially spinner sharks, regularly come close to shore this time of year following the bait fish that emerge from inlets in Port St. Lucie as well as Jupiter and other Palm Beach County beaches.

“When the bait fish are large enough, they come out of the inlets and travel up and down the coast. That’s dinner time for the sharks,” said Chuck Price, North District Supervisor for Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue.

Spinner sharks, which can grow as large as 10 feet long, are known for leaping out of the water close to shore, Price said.
“The spinners close to shore in schools to feed,” he said.

To the south, Gulf Stream Park also called swimmers out of the water three or four times Sunday because of shark activity.

A shark clamped on to Kurt Hoffman’s arm Saturday off Delray Beach, as the 43-year-old was kite surfing. Doctors chose not to stitch up more than a dozen punctures in his forearm, hoping the bacteria drain from the wounds.

And Sunday, 22-year-old Adam Fisk had a different kind of shark encounter, hanging out a fishing line from his kayak and getting a bite from a hammerhead. The shark dragged Fisk on a two-hour northbound tour from the Boynton Inlet to the Lake Worth pier before the Florida Atlantic University senior cut the line.

“I’ve hooked sharks, but not that big and never on purpose,” Fisk said Wednesday. “It was about 11-foot and my kayak is about 12.”

Sharks are not the only danger facing swimmers in the next couple of days. Strong rip current warnings are in effect through tonight and hazardous swimming conditions exist from Jupiter Beach Inlet to South Miami Beach, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Rip currents are powerful channels of water that flow away from shore, usually at low spots and near jetties and piers. They can pull swimmers quickly out to sea. Swimmers should pay attention to lifeguards, flags and posted warning signs.


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