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Snippy shark sinks evangelist's State Fair stunt

TAMPA — It was supposed to be the next backdrop for his YouTube salvation message.

Picture this: evangelist Bill Keller, a bible and a tank filled with sharks. For five minutes he would preach to them.

The title of the video: 'Swimming with the Sharks."

But about 30 minutes before Keller was set to dive into the shark exhibit Friday at the Florida State Fair, organizers nixed it.

Apparently, the sharks were a little snappy.

Specifically, the 300-pound, 7-foot nurse shark was irritated and aggressive, fair spokesman Paul Wilson said.

The shark had been swimming with strangers for several days and had had enough, said the shark handler.

"He said 'The shark is agitated. No one's getting in the tank right now,' " Wilson said.

The exhibit debuted this year at the fair, and several local media personalities have interviewed the shark handler — and then jumped into the tank to record television shots.

To protect them, the handler held a makeshift gate made of PVC pipes between them and the sharks, Wilson said.

Friday morning, it was WTVT-TV Fox 13 meteorologist Dave Osterberg's turn. While he was in the water, the nurse shark poked at the pipe and tried to slide through its partitions.

Osterberg, who had been in the tank for about 15 minutes, promptly got out.

Keller, dressed nattily in a cream-and-black pinstriped suit, was unfazed. He still wanted a shot.

The controversial preacher admitted to being just a little bit afraid of the sharks. But mostly, he said he was excited.

"It was a little something different," he said. "I don't mind living on the edge."

Snippy shark sinks evangelist's State Fair stunt 02/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 11:01pm]
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