Beachgoers lose limbs in shallow-water shark attacks

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US Shark Attacks: Two Injured Off North Carolina Coast


OAK ISLAND, N.C. (AP) — Beachgoers cautiously returned to the ocean Monday after two young people lost limbs in separate, life-threatening shark attacks in the same town in North Carolina.

A 12-year-old girl lost her left arm below the elbow and suffered a leg injury Sunday afternoon; then about an hour and 20 minutes later and 2 miles away, a shark bit off the left arm above the elbow of a 16-year-old boy.

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North Carolina Teens Shark Attacks
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Beachgoers lose limbs in shallow-water shark attacks
In this image taken from video provided by New Hanover Regional Medical Center, 16-year-old Hunter Treschl, of Colorado Springs, Colo., speaks during an interview at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., Tuesday, June 16, 2015. The teen was seriously wounded in a shark attack. "We were just playing around in the waves, and I felt a hit on my left calf," Treschl said in a videotaped interview released Tuesday night by the hospital where he is being treated. "I thought it felt like a big fish, and I started moving away. And then the shark bit my arm off." (New Hanover Regional Medical Center via AP)
Emergency responders assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., Sunday, June 14, 2015. Mayor Betty Wallace of Oak Island, a seaside town bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, said that hours after the teenage girl suffered severe injuries in a shark attack Sunday a teenage boy was also severely injured. (Steve Bouser/The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C. via AP) 
People assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., Sunday, June 14, 2015. Mayor Betty Wallace of Oak Island, a seaside town bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, said that hours after the teenage girl suffered severe injuries in a shark attack Sunday a teenage boy was also severely injured. (Steve Bouser/The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C. via AP)
Emergency responders assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., Sunday, June 14, 2015. Mayor Betty Wallace of Oak Island, a seaside town bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, said that hours after the teenage girl suffered severe injuries in a shark attack Sunday a teenage boy was also severely injured. (Steve Bouser/The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C. via AP)
This is the scene right now in Oak Island at the 58th access after two reported shark bites. (Heather Eccard Grube) http://t.co/sUV6Feg6wg
Two teens lose limbs in separate shark attacks in North Carolina http://t.co/Zw1ZyFjXDH http://t.co/By2cuj2giM
Vacationers relax on the bench and in the surf in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, 2015. 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 lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks late Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
A helicopter flies over the Ocean Crest Pier in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, 2015. 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 lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks late Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
A woman stands in the surf on the beach in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, 2015. 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 lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks late Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Will Rudisill, 10, of Raleigh, N.C., left, and Stella Cross, 11, of Matthews, N.C., right, walk with their skim boards on the beach in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, 2015. 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 lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks late Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Vacationers sit in chairs in the surf in Oak Island, N.C., Monday, June 15, 2015. 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 lost his left arm about an hour later and 2 miles away in two separate shark attacks late Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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Both had been swimming about 20 yards offshore, in waist-deep water.

A shark expert says the best response after one of these extremely rare attacks is to temporarily close beaches that lack lifeguards. Local officials acknowledged Monday that they didn't make a concerted effort to warn people up and down the town's beaches until after the second attack.

Most beachgoers near the spot alongside a fishing pier where the first victim was attacked were staying in very shallow water or on the sand Monday. Holly Helmig, 39, of Raleigh watched her 6-year-old son bobbing on a boogie board in shin-deep water instead of splashing in the waves farther out. Her 5-year-old daughter Zoe shoveled sand in a bucket next to her.

"I feel bad for the shark but I think he's hiding somewhere in the ocean," Zoe said.

Deputies saw a 7-foot shark Sunday in an area between the two places where the attacks happened, Sheriff John Ingram said. Sharks of that size are common along the coast, Oak Island Town Manager Tim Holloman said, and authorities are not trying to hunt one down. But safety officials scouted for sharks from boats and a helicopter Monday. One was spotted Monday morning, Holloman said.

Recordings of 911 calls released Monday include several people calling each attack in, some sounding nearly hysterical. The victims — a girl from Asheboro and a boy from Colorado Springs, Colorado — were bleeding heavily, and other beachgoers applied makeshift tourniquets.

Unprovoked Shark Attacks in the U.S. (1837-2014) | FindTheHome

"His arm is gone!" one upset female caller near where the boy was attacked.

Randy Giles, 52, was sitting on the sand with his fiancee, Schalane Wolford, when he heard the girl scream, and called 911 immediately, before she was carried to the beach.

"At first I thought it was a jellyfish sting, but when (the man next to her) pulled her out of the water, she was bleeding and a lot of her arm was bit off, so I knew it was a shark," Giles said.

As people screamed to get out of the water, Giles said Wolford ran over to give the family her towels, and someone else used a cord from a boogie board as a tourniquet for the girl's arm.

After the second attack, town employees drove along beaches urging people to get out, but the instructions were voluntary and not mandatory. The town has no ordinance authorizing officials to order the surf cleared even if sharks present a threat, Holloman said. As a result, they take their direction from a state law guaranteeing public access to beaches.

Just four days earlier, a 13-year-old girl suffered small lacerations on her foot from a shark bite on Ocean Isle Beach, about 15 miles from Oak Island. Both towns are on barrier islands just off the coast.

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 removed below his left shoulder. Both were in good condition Monday at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, where Dr. Borden Hooks operated on both victims.

There were only 72 unprovoked shark attacks on humans around the world in 2014, including 52 in the U.S., according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Three of them — all outside the U.S. — were fatal.

Shark researcher George Burgess, who oversees the database, said he's aware of only two other multiple shark attacks on the same beach in one day. "It may be that there are big schools of fish out in the surf zone that are attracting the sharks," he said.

Even if lifeguards were on duty, the amount of area closed and the duration of a closure is always a question, said Tom Gill, spokesman for the U.S. Lifesaving Association.

"At the end of the day, it's the ocean," he said. "It's an uncontrolled environment, which is why we think lifeguards are so important."

Conditions that contribute to shark attacks include: swimming near piers, murky water that confuses sharks and beaches with few people in the water, Gill said.

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