Beachgoers at North Carolina’s popular Oak Island scrambled to get out of the water after two shark attacks that happened so fast, officials were unable to close the beach before the second injury was reported.
Authorities say the first attack occurred near Ocean Crest Fishing Pier on Sunday afternoon when a 13-year-old girl was bitten. According to Mayor Betty Wallace, the victim lost part of her left arm in the attack, and may lose her left leg as well. The second shark encounter happened a little more than an hour later, when officials were trying to alert swimmers about the possible danger. A 16-year-old boy was attacked about two miles from the intial incident and also lost his left arm. Authorities are currently investigating whether the same shark was responsible for both attacks.
Both victims were transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in critical condition and went straight to surgery. Their names have not been released to the public, but authorities are now saying that both teens are in fair condition. The attacks were not only a shock to town officials, but also longtime beachgoers as well. Swimmers who were at Oak Island on Sunday remembered the chaos that erupted after the first victim was brought ashore, when many rushed to help while many more rushed to simply escape the water.
“I saw someone carry this girl (onto the beach) and people were swarming around and trying to help. It was quite terrible,” Steve Bouser, who was on a week-long vacation, told the Associated Press.
The crowd likely saved the teen’s life by applying much-needed tourniquets to stop the bleeding. Others talked to the girl to keep her conscious, as she was very clearly in a state of shock.
“It was so much like a scene from Jaws,” Bouser’s wife Brenda added.
Experts have yet to make a guess at what type of shark was behind the attack. George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told Star News Online that he has only heard of two successive shark attacks in his 40-year career. One occurred in Florida 20 years ago, and another in Egypt more recently. Burgess said that the sharks—or shark—that bit the teens were likely larger than the usual blacktip and spinner sharks that live along the Carolina coast. Perhaps more chillingly, he suspected that the attacks were not due to the sharks mistaking the teens for their normal prey, but actual predatory attacks.
“Sharks do not normally aim for humans as part of their normal eating routine,” he said. “These were bites that were very much intentional by sharks.”
You can see an interview with witnesses and officials below:
ABC News reported that the beaches will open on Monday, but visitors are strongly discouraged to go into the water. Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram stated that helicopter and boat patrols will continue to look for the sharks behind the attacks and provide support.