Shark panic hits North Carolina vacationers

science | Jun 15, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

Vacation was marred on June 14 by two shark attacks in North Carolina. Two swimmers lost limbs at Oak Island – a beach resort on the Atlantic shore. Local officials confirmed that a 12-year-old girl from Asheboro NC lost part of an arm, as well sustaining a serious injury to a leg. Less than 90 minutes later on the same day, a 16-year-old boy from Winston-Salem lost his left arm. In each case, the victims were in waist-deep surf about 20 yards from the shore. They occurred approximately 2 miles from each other. The two attacks were the most recent in less than one week. On June 11, a 13-year-old received lacerations from a shark bit on Ocean Isle Beach. Both Ocean Isle and Oak Island are barrier islands off the North Carolina shore, about 15 miles from each other.
 
Fellow beach-goers and first-responders assisted the girl at just before 5 p.m. local time and managed to take her to a nearby hospital.  They were credited with saving her life by stanching the bleeding with make-shift tournequets. Surgeons amputated what was left of the left arm of the girl below her elbow. She also sustained tissue damage to her lower left leg. In the case of the adolescent male, his left arm was amputated below his shoulder. On June 15, they were airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington NC. Their names were not released.
 
It is not clear whether the same shark attacked each of the victims. However, sheriff’s deputies in boats and helicopters monitored the water after spotting a 7-foot long specimen between the two locations of the incidents. They continue to monitor the water. The species of the shark in question is unknown. Law enforcement officers are cooperating with the Shark Research Institute in the investigation.
 
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 52 unprovoked shark attacks in U.S. waters in 2014. None were fatal. 
 
Near panic ensued following the attacks when law enforcement sent officers on all-terrain-vehicles to call all swimmers from the water. By the time of the second attack, all of the beaches on Oak Island were closed.  As of June 15, the beaches re-opened. Officials advise swimmers to avoid areas where others are fishing and to remain out of the water if they have bleeding injuries. They are also advised to avoid murky water. 
 
One of the worst spates of shark attacks occured nearly 100 years ago in New Jersey. The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 occured between 1 and July 12. Four people lost their lives, while one was injured. Experts have debated ever since as to which species may have been the culprit, while some theorize either a Great White shark or Bull shark was involved. Experts believe that the increased presence of people along the Atlantic shore led to the attacks. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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