A 22-year-old woman from Connecticut lost her leg Wednesday in a shark attack while visiting Turks and Caicos.
The unidentified woman and a friend were snorkeling in the water outside a resort near the Leeward Marina on the island of Providenciales when she was bitten by a shark, according to the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force. A resort employee who witnessed the attack called the police on Wednesday afternoon to request ambulance assistance.
According to the employee, the shark had bitten off the woman’s leg. According to police, the victim remains hospitalized in serious condition at Cheshire Hall Medical Centre. A resort spokesperson told NBC News that the woman was not a guest, and that the incident has nothing to do with the resort or the marina.
“Our understanding is that she was the guest of another resort and the client of a boat excursion company, neither of which we are affiliated with nor located near,” spokesperson Stephanie Mack told the outlet.
Shark attacks are often covered sensationally by media worldwide, sparking fear in swimmers and surfers despite such incidences remaining a rare sight. Scientists say there are usually between 70 and 80 unprovoked shark bites annually around the world for the last decade.
There were only 57 unprovoked bites last year, five of which were fatal, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File. There were nine such deaths the year prior.
The file said that one reason for the lower number of bites could be the global decline of shark populations.
Despite reports of shark attacks, scientists say it is absolutely still safe to swim in the water. A person is at greater risk of getting hurt in a car accident on the way to the beach than they are to get seriously injured by a shark bite, according to The Associated Press. Scientists advised the outlet that beachgoers should take simple precautions like not carrying shiny objects into the water and not swimming at dawn and dusk.
“We are intruders in their environment. What we can do is be logical and safe about that and avoid areas where sharks are going to be feeding,” James Sulikowski, director of Oregon State University’s Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, told AP.
“When an interaction occurs, it’s mistaken identity — we are in an area where a shark is looking to eat,” he said.