Officials: Oak Island shark attack victims were in waist-deep water

Monday, June 15, 2015
Two mauled in NC shark attacks
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Two young people were vacationing in the beach town of Oak Island, swimming in waist-deep water, when they were severely injured.

OAK ISLAND, N.C. -- A pair of serious shark attacks in the same North Carolina town on Sunday has residents and vacationers fearing for their safety.

Two young people were vacationing in the beach town of Oak Island, swimming in waist-deep water, when they were severely injured.

  • Click here for the 911 calls
  • A 12-year-old girl from Asheboro lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury, and a 16-year-old boy from Colorado Springs, Colorado lost his left arm less than 90 minutes later and about 2 miles away late Sunday afternoon, officials said. The victims were each about 20 yards offshore.

    Source: Florida Museum of Natural History

    The call about the girl came in about 4:40 p.m., and the call about the boy at 5:51 p.m., town officials said.

    "I saw someone carry this girl (out of the water) and people were swarming around and trying to help," Steve Bouser, who was just beginning his week-long beach vacation, told The Associated Press. "It was quite terrible."

    The girl was bleeding heavily, and people applied makeshift tourniquets while asking her questions to try to keep her conscious.

    It was "quite nightmarish," Bouser said.

    Surgeons amputated the girl's left arm below her elbow, and she has tissue damage to her lower left leg. The boy's left arm was amputated below his left shoulder.

    Both were in good condition Monday after being airlifted about 25 miles to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, said hospital spokeswoman Martha Harlan. Neither victim's name was released.

    "Honestly they have a really long road ahead," said Brunswick County Emergency Services director Brian Watts.

    Watts credited their survival to bystanders who helped to stanch their bleeding and the quick work of emergency personnel.

    "Without that, we would have had a different outcome," he said.

  • Related story: Video from 2014 shows more than 100 sharks in feeding frenzy off NC coast
  • Investigators said they didn't know whether the same shark attacked both victims, nor the size of the shark in either attack. Deputies using boats and helicopters to monitor the water after the attacks saw a 7-foot shark between where the incidents happened, Sheriff John Ingram said.

    Oak Island is working with local law enforcement and the Shark Research Institute to locate the shark but wouldn't say what would happen if they find it, town manager Tim Holloman said.

    "We're just monitoring right now," he said.

    The beaches were not closed between the attacks, and Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace told The Associated Press she didn't think there was enough time to do so.

    The window of less than two hours didn't give workers enough time to make that decision, she wrote in an email. Beaches were closed after the second attack.

    "Our local police ATVs and the sheriff's boat and helicopter patrolled immediately after the second one, getting everyone out of the water," Wallace said.

    Wallace says that even if the beach had closed after the first attack, the order might not have reached the area of the second incident.

    "I don't know if it would have extended between the two (locations)," she wrote.

    On Monday, the beaches were open, with officials encouraging people to stay only in shallow water, Oak Island town manager Tim Holloman said.

    Wallace said: "When something like this happens, everyone is on edge, but this is the first time in memory we've had an occurrence of this sort."

    Brunswick County planned to have a boat and a helicopter patrolling the water, Holloway said.

    "Oak Island is still a safe place," Holloman said. "We're monitoring the situation. This is highly unusual."

    Last Thursday, a shark bit a 13-year-old girl while she was boogie boarding off of Ocean Isle beach, also in Brunswick County.

    That victim had some cuts on her foot but should be okay.

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