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15-year-old girl loses hand and leg in Florida shark attack

Lulu Gribbins was one of three people attacked by sharks in Walton County, Florida, on Friday afternoon.
Posted at 8:59 PM, Jun 10, 2024

A teenager has lost one of her hands and a leg after one of multiple shark attacks that struck an area along Florida's panhandle Friday.

Lulu Gribbin was among at least five of her friends, all visiting Rosemary Beach with their mothers from Birmingham, Alabama, looking for sand dollars on a sandbar when the tragedy struck, her mother Ann Blair Gribbin wrote on CaringBridge.

Recounting the story after her surgeries, the 15-year-old told her mother that the shark first bit her hand then her leg before attacking her friend's foot. Lulu said that a man pulled her out of the waist-high water by her other arm and carried her to shore with the help of a younger man.

Once she was on shore, two doctors and a nurse put tourniquets on the teen's wounds, which her mom believes "was crucial" to saving her daughter's life. Lulu was then airlifted to a Pensacola hotel, where doctors later told Ann Blair that the shark had bitten off Lulu's left hand and that they had to amputate her right leg "halfway up from her knee to her hip," the mother wrote on CaringBridge. She also said Lulu lost two-thirds of her body's blood in the incident.

"Of course, no one wants that for your child, but she is alive," Ann Blair wrote.

This was Ann Blair's first mother-daughter beach trip with her twins, Lulu and Ellie. She was heading back to the beach from lunch when she noticed a group of people surrounding someone on the ground, and Ellie found her to say it was Lulu.

"I saw her wounds on her leg and started to scream," Ann Blair wrote. "She was lifeless, her eyes closed, mouth white and pale. The wound on her leg, or all that was left of her leg, was something out of a movie."

When Lulu was airlifted away from the beach, Ann Blair was driving the hour and 20 minutes to the hospital in Pensacola, and when she arrived, Lulu was already in surgery.

After the surgery, doctors initially told Ann Blair that Lulu would have to be intubated for a week or so and that she would need at least four surgeries to finalize her amputations. But on Saturday, Lulu's medical team was able to remove her breathing tube.

"Once she settled, her first words to us were, 'I made it.' And boy she did," Ann Blair wrote.

Walton County Sheriff's Office Beach Marine Unit

U.S. News

Florida authorities warn of shark dangers along Gulf Coast after 3 attacked

AP via Scripps News
12:37 PM, Jun 08, 2024

Lulu was one of three people injured by shark attacks in the area Friday afternoon, which led Walton County to close its beaches temporarily. The first attack left a 45-year-old woman in Watersound without her lower left arm. Lulu and the third victim, a 17-year-old girl, were attacked about 90 minutes and four miles away, with the latter suffering flesh wounds to her right foot, according to South Walton Fire District Chief Ryan Crawford who spoke at a press conference.

Ann Blair says Lulu has multiple surgeries ahead and that their lives will now be forever changed. She said the teen is "worried about not fitting in and people making fun of her," so she asked for prayers for quick healing, understanding and that Lulu will know "her hand and her leg do not define who she is."

"I also would like prayers for all the girls that were on the beach with her and the trauma they have endured," Ann Blair wrote. "Sweet Lulu is more worried for her friends than she is herself, which is a testament to her character ... She is truly a miracle. We have a long road ahead, and our journey is just beginning!"

Shark attacks happen every year in the Sunshine State, but they are still considered rare. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says humans are 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning in the state than bitten by a shark, and it notes that experts believe an increase in shark bites in recent years is more connected to a rise in human visitors than it is shark activity.

Still, three back-to-back bites is even more rare, particularly for Walton County. The International Shark Attack File, which is kept by the Florida Museum of Natural History, shows the area had only seen one bite since 1882 before the three on Friday.