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Lifeguards, NYPD officers use tourniquet to save shark-bite victim

The incident is the first time someone at Rockaway Beach has been bitten by a shark in 70 years


Gardiner Anderson/New York Daily News/TNS

By Colin Mixson, Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Cops frantically applied a tourniquet after a 65-year-old woman was bitten by a shark off Rockaway Beach Monday — the first shark attack on a New York City beach in 70 years, authorities said.

The Queens resident was swimming about 50 feet from shore in the waters near Beach 59th St. at 5:50 p.m when the shark chomped down on her left leg according to a spokeswoman for the Parks Department.

The shark tore off a piece of the woman’s flesh above the knee before swimming away, an image of the gruesome wound shared with the Daily News showed.

Lifeguards helped pull the woman from the water and cops at the beach tied a tourniquet above the deep gash as EMS raced to the scene.

Cops escorted the ambulance carrying the victim to Jamaica Hospital. At first, cops said the woman suffered a critical injury but doctors at the hospital later said she was in serious but stable condition.

Lifeguards cleared swimmers from the water.

The wounded swimmer was first believed to be in her 50s but later identified as 65, cops said.

The Parks Department closed Rockaway Beach to swimmers Tuesday as they continued to investigate the shark attack.

Police deployed quad-rotor drones over the waters off the beach immediately following the incident but did not find any sharks.

“We hope for a full recovery for this swimmer,” Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said. “Though this was a frightening event, we want to remind New Yorkers that shark bites in Rockaway are extremely rare. We remain vigilant in monitoring the beach and always clear the water when a shark is spotted.”

The incident follows shark sightings off Rockaway Beach last year, which caused the city to temporarily close the beach to swimming on July 23.

Because sharks often use their mouths to gauge whether other animals are prey, the high winds, strong currents and murky waters that prevailed Monday enhanced the likelihood of attacks, according to one Long Island shark expert.

“Today it was really windy, the water was churned up. The water is probably a little more murky. That all adds to the potential of these bites happening,” said Christopher Paparo, manager of the marine lab at Stony Brook University.

The southern coast of Long Island is an important habitat for many species of sharks, including sand tiger sharks, dusky sharks and sandbar sharks, according to Paparo.

If the victim was bitten by a shark, it was likely an exploratory bite, as the sharks that dwell in the seas off Rockaway Beach are incapable of devouring humans, Paparo noted.

”It took a bite, realized I can’t eat this, and moved on,” said Paparo.

The last person to suffer a shark bite off the coast of Rockaway Beach was 15-year-old Alan Stevenson Jr., who hooked a shark while fishing in 1953. The fish bit his leg after he grabbed it by the tail.

Prior to that, there hadn’t been an attack off Rockaway Beach by a shark since 1909.

Attacks off the coast of the Rockaways are rare, but New Yorkers living farther east on Long Island are at greater risk, with five swimmers suffering shark bites this year, including three on the Fourth of July.

An average of five people per year die in shark-related fatalities worldwide, according to Sentient Media.

“There are far more things we do on a daily basis that are more likely to kill us than a shark,” said Paparo.

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