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Teen's Spirits Up after Shark Takes His Leg

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- The parents of a 16-year-old boy who lost his leg in a shark attack thanked his rescuers Thursday, saying the doctor, three nurses and emergency medical technician who treated him on the beach saved his life.

Roger and Lou Ann Hutto said their son, Craig, would have died if not for the quick action of the five, who happened to be relaxing on the Cape San Blas beach where their son was attacked while fishing in waist- to chest-deep water Monday. The attack came two days after another teen was killed by a shark at another Florida Panhandle beach.

"Words will never express how grateful we are, how thankful we are,'' Roger Hutto said. "If it hadn't been for those people, I don't think we would be standing here today.'' The rescuers helped stem the blood flow until paramedics arrived to take the boy to the hospital. Their names have not been released.

The boy, a high school baseball and basketball player in Lebanon, Tenn., was listed in stable condition Thursday at Bay Medical Center.

Speaking in an appearance at the hospital, the Huttos said their son has kept his spirits high despite losing his leg and even joked when his mom said their next vacation would be horseback riding.

"Momma, I'll get kicked in the head,'' his mother quoted him as saying.

The shark ripped off part of Craig's right leg, which had to be amputated. His brother, Brian, fought off the shark, preventing worse injuries.

"Something bumped him and he immediately kind of backpedaled,'' Brian said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America.'' Then he saw the fin and quickly realized it was a shark.

"I grabbed hold and started going back to shore,'' Brian said. "I remember at one point grabbing Craig's arm and I remember hitting (the shark) at least once.''

On Saturday, a 14-year-old girl, Jamie Marie Daigle, of Gonzales, La., was killed by a shark as she swam off Miramar Beach near Destin, about 80 miles west of where Craig was injured.

Lou Ann Hutto said the family had heard about the attack on Jamie, but never thought something like that would happen to them.

The Huttos said their son plans to continue his athletic career after he gets his prosthetic leg.

Jamie and Craig are believed to have been attacked by bull sharks, a breed responsible for many attacks on humans and common off the Gulf Coast.

"The bull sharks historically use the northern Gulf of Mexico as a pupping area, where they drop their young,'' said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida.

"They've always been very common in this area, so it's not a surprise, certainly to us in the scientific world, that these attacks involved bull sharks,'' he said.

Four years ago on another Panhandle beach, a bull shark bit off the right arm of then 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast of Ocean Springs, Miss. His uncle wrestled the 6 1/2-foot shark ashore, the arm was pulled from its gullet and doctors successfully reattached it at a Pensacola hospital. Jessie, however, continues to suffer brain damage due to blood loss from the attack.

Just a dozen shark attacks occurred in Florida in 2004, compared to 30 in 2003, 29 in 2002, 34 in 2001, and 37 in 2000. The deadly series of four hurricanes in the 2004 summer meant fewer people were in the water, but sharks are known to head for deep water when a hurricane approaches.

Globally, there were 61 unprovoked shark attacks in 2004, according to The International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Seven people died. There were also 15 provoked attacks (typically a diver bit after grabbing a shark or a fisherman bit while removing a shark from a net) and 12 cases of sharks biting boats. The global total was down slightly from recent years but still part of an upward trend overall.