PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Ethan Hand was in just 8 inches of water, his mother just a few feet away, when suddenly he started screaming. His mother, Emily Morrell, is a nurse at Cherokee Northside hospital. When she dragged him up on the shore of the Panama City Beach, he was bleeding profusely from his left ankle. She called 911 just after noon on Wednesday.

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Emily's partner, Whitney Stewart, told 11Alive's Julie Wolfe first responders originally thought a small shark bit Ethan. But by the time they got to the hospital, doctors were less sure. When the blood and sand were cleared away, a large puncture wound remained. Ethan was rushed to surgery where several sutures were put in place. Stewart says there was slight tendon and muscle damage, but he will fully recover the use of his foot.

A local plastic surgeon said the bite details where consistent with a small Nurse Shark or Hammerhead shark.

Ethan will go home from the hospital Wednesday night. He'll sleep in Panama City and head back to Smyrna Thursday. Stewart says they're relieved, "What if he was in deeper water? What if it was something bigger? We're very, very fortunate." She says the 7-year-old is a regular visitor to the beach and isn't showing any fear of returning.

Now that Ethan's recovery is on track, the mystery remains: what bit him? Marine biologists are taking a closer look at his injuries to make a determination. What do you think?


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