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July 19, 2023

Delaware County girl, 12, recovering from shark bite at Florida beach

The attack is one of several that have been reported at Central Florida beaches in recent weeks

Wildlife Sharks
Shark Delaware County Pixabay/

A Delaware County girl was given 50 stitches after a shark bit her leg as she swam off Cocoa Beach, Florida late last month. Shark bites are rare, but there have been several reported attacks in Central Florida in recent weeks.

A 12-year-old girl from Delaware County is recuperating after she was attacked by a shark while vacationing with her family in Florida.

Magnolia Woodhead, of Springfield, was in Cocoa Beach during the last week of June before she was set to compete in a gymnastics competition in Orlando.

The day before the tournament, Woodhead was swimming in waist-deep water when she said she ducked under an incoming wave and felt a set of teeth on her thigh.

"All of a sudden, something just came at me and started biting me," she told CBS3.

Woodhead escaped from the shark and ran to shore, where her mother heard her screaming for help. Magnolia was taken to a nearby hospital, where she received 50 stitches.

Despite the ordeal, Woodhead and her family still made it to the USAIGC World Championships to support her teammates. Magnolia was surprised with a medal recognizing her bravery.

"I'm just thankful that nothing bad happened to me — like nothing really bad," Magnolia said. "It could have bit my whole leg off."

Woodhead's frightening encounter was one of at least three shark-related incidents in Florida during the final week of June, ABC7 reported. Two more shark attacks occurred in Central Florida last weekend, both at New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County. A 21-year-old surfer suffered injuries to his foot after he was bitten Friday, and the next day a 48-year-old man suffered minor injuries to his back after a shark attacked him while he was sitting near a jetty.

Shark attacks are extremely rare and most sharks avoid humans unless they become threatened. The odds of a shark attack in the United States are 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File's report on beach injuries and fatalities.

In 2022, 16 of the 41 unprovoked shark attacks in the U.S. occurred in Florida, the most of any state. Only one of the 41 attacks was fatal. 

Florida is often described as the shark bite capital of the world, but the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported this month that there has been an overall downward trend in attacks both there and around the world.

In May, a 15-year-old Chester County girl suffered multiple lacerations from a shark bite while surfing in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. After feeling a heavy tug on her foot and calf, the girl said she shook her leg from the shark's grip and paddled back to shore. She was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

"I thought I was gonna have to get my foot amputated," Maggie Drozdowski told CBS3 after the incident. "But it didn't end up being that bad. I think the wetsuit kind of saved me because it protected my foot."

Only about 12 of the more than 300 shark species have been involved in attacks on humans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Humans are not part of sharks' natural diets, and sometimes attacks can occur because of crowding at beaches where some sharks swim.