This Sunday, two separate shark attacks near a North Carolina beach town left two youths with serious injuries.
The second shark attack occurred just over an hour after the first, and the town mayor claimed that there was not enough time to get swimmers out of the water following the first attack.
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Two shark attacks in just over an hour
The first victim was a 12-year-old girl visiting family in the area. She was swimming at Oak Island near the Ocean Crest Fishing Pier when a shark attacked her at approximately 4:40 p.m. local time, according to officials. The victim lost part of her left arm, and there is a risk that she could lose her left leg, as a result of the attack.
At 5:51 p.m. local time, medics were called to the scene of another attack around 2 miles away, in which a visiting 16-year-old boy lost his left arm. Officials so far do not know whether the same shark attacked both victims. According to reports, the two youths are currently in a stable condition at a hospital in Wilmington.
According to Oak Island mayor Betty Wallace, the second attack “happened so quickly” that authorities had insufficient time to warm swimmers. “Our local police ATVs and the sheriff’s boat and helicopter patrolled immediately after the second one, getting everyone out of the water,” Wallace wrote to The Associated Press.
Swimmers told to get out of the water
Wallace went on say that the two separate beaches may not have been covered by the same evacuation order. “I don’t know if it would have extended between the two (locations),” she wrote.
The two victims were playing in water around waist-deep and 20 yards from shore when they were attacked. Oak Island, which is around 25 miles southwest of Wilmington, was also the site of another shark attack last week.
Beaches in the area were open on Monday, although officials urged swimmers to stay in shallow water, said Oak Island town manager Tim Holloman. A boat and a helicopter were dispatched to patrol the area.
“Oak Island is still a safe place,” Holloman said, stating that Brunswick County’s boat and helicopter will be in the area. “We’re monitoring the situation. This is highly unusual.”
Sharks drawn to fishing pier
Brunswick County’s emergency management director Brian Watts, told the Wilmington Star News that both of the victims had successfully undergone surgery.
The attacks took place near the Ocean Crest Fishing Pier, a popular hangout. It is thought that bait in the water may have attracted the sharks.
George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, told the Wilmington Star-News that the sharks which are usually sighted along the Carolina coastline are blacktip and spinner sharks, which measure around 6- 7 feet in length.
Burgess said that the sharks have been known to bite humans in “mistaken identity situations,” when the splashing of arms or legs appears to be the behavior of their normal prey.
Eyewitness Steve Bouser had just arrived at the beach on a week-long vacation with his wife. He said that people were shouting at swimmers to get out of the water.
“I saw someone carry this girl (out of the water) and people were swarming around and trying to help,” he told AP on Sunday evening. “It was quite terrible.”
Spate of attacks near Oak Island
He described the scene, telling reporters that people made tourniquets to attempt to stop the flow of blood, asking the girl questions to prevent her from losing consciousness. “You’ve got this nice beach scene going on, and the next moment is just a nightmare,” Bouser told the Wilmington Star-News. “It was so much like a scene from Jaws,” added Brenda, his wife.
The previous attack involved a 13-year-old girl who was bitten as she rode a boogie board, suffering lacerations to her foot.
The attacks will raise inevitable questions about the response of the authorities, and why the order to get swimmers out of the water would not have covered an area that was relatively near to the site of the first attack. Shark attacks live long in the memory and a spate of three in just a few weeks could be bad news for Oak Island’s reputation as a safe spot for families to swim.
“Please keep this girl and her family in your prayers,” wrote Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace on Facebook. I sincerely hope that the two victims recover from the attack, and that no one else is attacked by a shark in the area.