Officials: Shark attack victims were in waist-deep water

SHARE Officials: Shark attack victims were in waist-deep water
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Emergency responders assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., Sunday, June 14, 2015. | Steve Bouser / The Pilot, Southern Pines, N.C. via AP

OAK ISLAND, N.C. — Two young people were vacationing in the beach town of Oak Island, swimming in shallow, waist-deep water, when they were severely injured in shark attacks, town officials said Monday.

The attacks — in which a 12-year-old girl lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury and a 16-year-old boy lost his left arm less than 2 miles away — happened less than 90 minutes apart Sunday, officials said.

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.

Their names haven’t been released, but officials said both were on vacation from other parts of North Carolina.

Martha Harlan of New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington — about 25 miles away, where both victims were airlifted — said both were in good condition Monday morning after surgery.

Officials said they couldn’t confirm whether the same shark attacked them or give details on the size of the animal or animals.

At the time they were airlifted, the victims’ injuries were life-threatening, officials said. They credited life-saving efforts by beach bystanders and quick responses from 911 call centers and emergency workers.

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.”

Fire Chief Christopher Anselmo told NBC’s “Today” show that Sunday’s attacks were his first such experience in 16 years with the department.

“We can’t guarantee anything — these are ocean waters,” Anselmo said. “There’s a lot of fish and sharks that are in the ocean. There’s nothing we can do to control that. We can only education people to be careful in the water.”

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.”

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