A state investigation has been launched into separate shark attacks on two children at beaches on New York’s Long Island.
A boy and a girl were attacked about the same time late Wednesday morning at two Fire Island beaches about four miles apart. They each suffered deep cuts but are expected to fully recover. A shark tooth was recovered from the leg of the 13-year-old boy, who was boogie-boarding off Atlantique beach when the attack occurred.
When the teen stumbled out of the water, lifeguards administering first aid “noticed the puncture wounds and we figured it was shark bite right away,” Craig Amarando, an Islip lifeguard, told The Long Island Press.
The tooth fragment was analyzed and was likely from a sand shark, James Gilmore of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said at a news conference Thursday.
The 12-year-old girl was standing waist-deep in the cold water of Sailor’s Haven beach about 15 minutes earlier Wednesday when she was also bitten by a shark.
“It was just like a quick kind of pull,” she told NBC Channel 4. “I kind of looked at it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’” She said the shark swam away as she turned to run. Witnesses on the beach thought the girl was attacked by a sand shark, a type that’s common off Long Island.
Experts believe both sharks were likely juveniles, either tiger or sand sharks, that were looking for fish in the surf line and swerved off quickly after biting humans.
“It was probably a case of mistaken identity,” said Gilmore. “This is a very rare event.” The last reported shark attack in New York occurred in 1953.
Heavy surf has recently clouded the water close to shore, which likely contributed to the rare attack, he added.
The beaches were reopened Thursday, but many people stayed out of the water, according to lifeguards. Two 8-foot sand sharks were caught about 100 feet off Atlantique beach after the beaches were reopened, said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter at the press conference. Both of the sharks were released. Ocean activities were suspended for a children’s camp at Atlantique, said Carpenter, and drones were circling beaches in the area to spot any unusual shark activity.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the DEC will “lead a multiagency investigation into the apparent juvenile shark attacks.”