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Martin County Commissioners respond to shark bite victim's mother's plea for safer beaches

Posted at 12:10 AM, Nov 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-23 05:38:14-05

Martin County Commissioners are taking action to make public beaches safer for swimmers.

It’s been nearly three months since 4-year-old Violet Jalil was bitten by a shark at Bathtub Beach.

Now, changes are underway following Violet’s mother’s plea with the county to do something.

Jessica Veatch, Violet’s mom, wrote a letter to county commissioners in October, telling them she would like to see something done to keep swimmers and fisherman distant from each other.

Veatch believed people spearfishing near Bathtub Beach might have attracted the shark that bit Violet closer to the shore.

“There is plenty of real estate where they can engage in these activities, without putting the public in danger,” Veatch said.

That letter grabbed the attention of Commissioner Ed Ciampi.

“My heart was breaking for her when I originally read her story in the newspaper and then read her email,” Ciampi said.

Shortly after, they met in person.

“She showed me some photographs of what happened to her daughter’s leg. I mean, it was shocking. I can close my eyes now and remember it.”

The next day, Ciampi said he went back to the county to talk about solutions.

Already, he said, the county had been working on enhancing an ordinance already in place regarding beach safety.

“We enhanced our rules before tragically that even happened to violet.”

Ciampi said that included expanding the distance fishermen must be from swimming areas to be 50 feet for fishermen using a line and hook, and 1,000 feet for shark fishing.

“Mixing the two next to each other, I think everyone can agree is not the best idea,” Ciampi said.

He also said there is talk of adding more signage to guarded beaches to better instruct beach-goers about what the colored flags mean and to clearly designate areas that are for swimmers.

Some fishermen do not think any rules need to change.

Robert Karis said he was the only spear fisherman the day Violet was bitten.

He says he was spear fishing from a legal distance and was never chumming.

“Life guards are very strict about that,” Karis said.

He also said that day he did not see many fish, and had stopped fishing shortly before Violet was bitten.

While he does not think the fishermen had anything to do with the attack, Veatch is not taking her chances.

Veatch also met with U.S Congressman Brian Mast to discuss safety options.

His office released the following statement:

Congressman Mast tries to meet with as many constituents as possible and this one especially grabbed his interest being a young girl who just recently had an extremity injury.  They spoke about the recovery process and the policy changes the family would like to see.  Congressman Mast looks forward to facilitating the conversation between the family and local elected officials, which is where any legislation on this topic would need to take place.