A Macclenny girl was bitten by a shark late Friday afternoon in the waters off Crescent Beach, where she was celebrating her birthday.
Peyton Shields turned 10 last week and for her birthday, she and her family left their Baker County home to spend the weekend at the Four Winds condominiums on A1A. They had only been at the beach for about an hour at the time of the shark attack.
"My daughter got bitten by a shark. It's, like, I don't know anybody who has been bitten by a shark," Steve Shields, Peyton's father, told News4Jax on Monday. "Lucky Peyton."
Peyton was boogie boarding in waist-deep water about 5:45 p.m. Friday when she was bitten on both her legs by a shark. She said she tried to push it away and she was bitten on her left hand before the shark swam off.
Her parents saw her screaming and struggling in the water. Her father said he thought she was yelling because she had thought had been stung by a jellyfish, but then he saw the blood.
"I saw she had blood coming out of her hand and then I started going into, 'What’s going on?'" Steve recounted. "Then when she got out, I saw there was a lot more blood coming from the lower half."
Peyton's parents put pressure on the wounds and called 911. Other children were in the water with Peyton, but she was the only one bitten, according to a St. Johns County Sheriff's Office report.
Caller: "She's got lacerations on her left knee, right thigh, left hand."
Dispatcher: "OK. And you said left knee, right thigh and left hand?"
Dispatcher: "OK. Alright. And you’re controlling the bleeding right now right?"
Caller: "That’s correct."
Dispatcher: "OK and no one else got bit though, correct?"
Caller: "No. Just her."
At the end of the call, the dispatcher can be heard asking how the girl is doing.
Caller: "She’s OK. She’s fine. She’s just real scared. She’s alright though."
Peyton was loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher and taken to Flagler Hospital, where she got 40 stitches and was bandaged up. Steve said she was brave and didn't even cry.
Fortunately, Peyton was released from the hospital just in time to celebrate at her birthday party, which was coincidentally ocean-themed, held Saturday, her father said.
Though Peyton, who's on spring break this week, was bummed she was unable to get in the water again over the weekend after the shark attack, she said that as soon as she's cleared by a doctor, she's looking forward to another family beach trip this summer and can't wait to get back in the ocean.
"She’s mad because she can’t go swimming and get in the water and all that stuff. She said, 'The sharks gone. I’m ready to get back in,'" Steve said. "We live in Florida. There's sharks. There’s alligators. We’re going to go swim in the lake. We’re going to swim in the ocean. It is what it is."
At a follow-up appointment Monday afternoon, a doctor told Peyton she was doing great and her stitches should come out in a week.
According to News4Jax records, there has been one shark bite so far this year in the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia area. Last year, there were four reported shark bites in that area. There were three locally recorded shark bites in 2017.