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Panama City Beach tourists encounter ’hoss-daddy’ shark

Nathan Cobb
nathan@waltonsun.com
The News Herald

PANAMA CITY BEACH — After a close run-in with a shark on Monday, a Kentucky couple plans to spend the rest of their vacation safely on the sand.

After anchoring off the coast of Shell Island in relatively uncrowded waters, Adison Wildharber, 22, and Taylor Smith, 21, both Paducah, Kentucky residents, hopped on some floats and started drifting away.

Moments later, they were startled by calls from their boat of a nearby shadow in the water.

"At first we thought it was a dolphin, but it was way too big to be a dolphin,“ said Wildharber, who described the shark as a more than 10-foot-long ”hoss-daddy.”

“As soon as it passed us, it went under, and we kinda just froze up because we didn’t know if it was going to turn around and come toward us or not,” Smith added.

Fortunately, it didn’t.

Ironically, the two said that shortly before the sighting happened, they were talking about how far the current had pulled them from their boat, and how much trouble they’d be in if a shark attacked.

“We were scared to make too much of a reaction to cause a commotion and make him come figure out what’s going on,” Wildharber said.

He added that the incident, recorded by a member of Wildharber’s family, happened in about 3-and-a-half-foot-deep water, near a deeper drop-off. It was both he and his girlfriend’s first time seeing a shark in the wild.

“We’re just glad we didn’t end up shark bait,” Wildharber said.

“It definitely snuck up on us,” Smith added. “We didn’t hear or see it coming.”

Looking ahead, the couple said they’ll be in Panama City Beach until Saturday. Neither planned to get back in the water.

“We did (plan to go back to the beach), but I think we’re just going to sit in the sand,” Wildharber said.