After two young people lost their left arms in an extremely rare pair of shark attacks on Sunday, there were ATVs patrolling the beach, and helicopters and boats searching the waters off Oak Island, NC, yesterday—but no lifeguards. Town officials say they'll keep looking for sharks, but they have neither the ability nor the authority to keep people out of the water, despite recommendations from shark experts. More:
- The town's fire chief says the beach stayed open because "there's no way for us to control" sharks near the shore. "We have 9 miles of beach and more entry points [than] we can man," he tells the Charlotte Observer. "What we can do is just advise beach-goers to be careful if they do enter the water. We can't stop them from entering."
- The town's manager says there's no money for lifeguards, and it's not clear whether they would have made a difference. University of Florida shark expert George Burgess, however, tells the Guardian that officials "should consider closing the beach" for at least a couple of days, getting extra lifeguards in the area," and teaching people that to enter the ocean is to enter a wilderness.
- Burgess adds that while it was probably the same shark in both attacks, the chances of identifying it are "slim to none" and it could be 40 miles away by now.
- The town's manager tells the Los Angeles Times that if any sharks are seen displaying "aggressive" behavior—like coming within 100 feet of the shore—they may be killed, though shark experts say this is a "foolhardy" approach that didn't reduce shark attacks when it was tried in Australia.
- Both victims, a 12-year-old girl whose age was initially reported as 13 and a 16-year-old boy, are now in fair condition, reports the AP, which notes that they were both swimming around 20 yards offshore in waist-deep water—and authorities didn't warn beachgoers until after the first attack.
- If the girl had been attacked at another part of the beach, she might not have survived, according to another Charlotte Observer story. After the bite, the girl was taken onto the beach just yards away from the rental cottage of Marie Hildreth, an experienced Charlotte paramedic who ran to help and was able to stanch the bleeding with a rope cut from a surfing bodyboard. And there was more help at hand: Hildreth was on vacation with relatives, including her fire captain husband, her police officer brother-in-law, her firefighter brother, and her mother, who warned people to get out of the water.
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