Florida, as you may know, is the shark attack capital of the world. Of 88 unprovoked shark bites that the Florida Museum of Natural History documented around the world last year, more than one-third took place in the Sunshine State’s shores.

But the vast majority of those attacks were on southern beaches, between Cape Canaveral and Miami. Shark encounters are relatively rare as you go farther up Florida’s Atlantic coastline. And they are almost unheard of in northernmost Nassau County.

Or so they were before Friday afternoon — when consecutive attacks sent two people to a hospital and shut down Fernandina Beach.

“I was in two feet of water or less, lying on my stomach,” the first victim, 30-year-old Dustin Theobald, told News 4 Jax from his hospital bed. He said he was watching his 8-year-old son play in the surf “when I felt something grab onto my foot and pull.”

He felt no pain, yet. He reached back to feel what he now believes to a be a nurse shark — or maybe a black tip, from the gouges it left in his foot.

“He was probably four or five feet,” Theobald said. “When I did that, he shook twice, then released and left.”

An onlooker told First Coast News that she watched Theobald stumble and hop to dry land on one foot, screaming: “I got bit! I got bit! Get out!”

“He barely made it out of the water,” another witness, Mike Webb, told the outlet. “He laid down at the lifeguard stand and they just went to wrapping and gauzing. His left foot was — from what he said was, he could see the bone on the top and the bottom.”

Theobald said he may have tendon damage, besides four-inch lacerations on both sides of his foot. And no sooner had an ambulance arrived at the beach to collect him, the city of Fernandina Beach wrote in a statement, than a second swimmer was attacked less than two miles down the coast.

A 17-year-old boy was bitten no more than five minutes after Theobald, First Coast News reported. And though he, too, is expected to recover, the reports caused authorities to evacuate all swimmers out of the water along the beach.

Here’s what you need to know about shark attacks and how to fight back if you're trapped. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

Before that afternoon, only four shark attacks had been recorded in Nassau County in the past 135 years, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, compared with more than 800 across the state.

The last encounter at Fernandina Beach took place three years ago, when a 12-year-old boy was dragged through waist-deep water by a shark nearly as large as himself. He had to punch the fish to break free.

Even though shark populations are declining due to overfishing, the museum warns that attacks can increase as more humans wade into their feeding grounds.

After the double-attack at Fernandina Beach, officials flew red flags along the waterline to warn people away. Nevertheless, News 4 recorded a scattering of people wading in the water late Friday afternoon — even as a sheriff’s truck rolled along the shoreline, urging them out with a loudspeaker.

“The shark has already bitten two people. Please exit the water,” the driver said.

“There’s a shark in the water that has already bitten two people,” he repeated as he passed a small group, waist-deep in the ocean. “I would move.”

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