June 1, 2012

Swimmer bitten by shark in shallow water in Avon


A swimmer was bitten by a shark mid-day on Thursday while swimming in shallow water off the Avon Beach, according to Paul Stevens, chief law enforcement ranger for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Stevens said he received a report on the shark bite this morning from Vidant Family Care Center in Avon.

Apparently, neither the National Park Service nor Dare County Emergency Medical Services were notified of the attack yesterday. Instead, the victim’s family took her directly to the Avon medical center by vehicle, Stevens said.

Stevens said the victim arrived at the medical center at 1:20 p.m., and the family reported that she was bitten by a shark that was about 18 to 24 inches long.

By one account, the victim is a female, and the shark bit and hung onto her leg.  It had to be torn off by others, which, apparently, caused damage to tissues and ligaments. The victim was treated by a physician at the medical center for several hours, but Stevens said he did not know if she had then been taken to a hospital.

“I am not an expert by any means,” Stevens said, “but just given my experience on local beaches, I would guess the shark was a sand shark or sand tiger shark.

These are common sharks in North Carolina waters, though Stevens says they seldom if ever bite people.

Last July, a 6-year-old girl was airlifted to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville after she was bitten by a shark on an Ocracoke beach. That attack happened about 5:30 in the afternoon, also in shallow water.  The child was on a boogie board, and the shark was reported to have been about 4 or 5 feet long.

Before that, the last shark attack on the seashore was on Sept. 3, 2001, off the beach at Avon when a 28-year-old Russian visitor was killed and his 23-year-old girlfriend critically injured.  A bull shark was suspected in that attack.

Stevens said he has alerted his staff and lifeguards, rescue squads, and Dare County Emergency Management.

But he reminds the public again that “You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than bitten by a shark.”

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