The beaches on Fire Island reopened this morning, a day after a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl suffered large fish bites in the waters off the barrier island off of Long Island’s south shore — in what could be attacks by a shark.
Lifeguards will be on duty from 11 a.m. at Atlantique Beach, where the 13-year-old boy, Matthew Donaldson, was bitten. The National Park Service surveyed Sailors Haven beach, where the 12-year-old girl, Lola Pollina, was bitten, and reopened that beach. The two beaches are less than five miles apart.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dispatched Basil Seggos, the Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, to Suffolk County, to investigate whether it was indeed a shark that bit the two children.
Neither Suffolk County nor the National Parks Service — which oversees some of Fire Island’s beaches — have yet confirmed that either of the bites came from sharks. County officials said that while the bite appeared to be from a shark, there had so far been no verified shark sighting.
A National Parks Service official told ABC News that the designation of a shark attack must come from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Lola’s father, Philip Pollina, said he could tell what he was seeing when he looked at her wound.
“I think it was a shark attack,” he said at a press conference. “When I saw the bite, there was a bite on her leg, there was no question what it was.”
His daughter, who concurred with her father’s assessment, said she had come through the incident intact.
“I thought it was a shark,” the 12-year-old said at the press conference. “We were at the beach and there wasn’t a tiger or anything,” she said, laughing.
The youngster was wading in waist-deep water when she spotted what appeared to her to be a three to four-foot shark.
“When I first got bit, I couldn’t feel it, so it didn’t hurt that bad.”
It was only after lifeguards began pouring water on the wound and wrapping it in gauze that she began to wince.
Further west and a few hours after the two attacks, bathers were evacuated from the waters off Robert Moses State Park and Jones Beach after a lifeguard spotted a shark.
State police sent a drone into the air to search the waters for sharks, according to George Gorman, Long Island deputy regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Bathers were allowed to return to the water after the lifeguard sighting was confirmed to be a sandbar shark. Sandbar sharks are considered to be a relatively benign type of shark, which feed on fish, crabs and stingrays — and are not known for attacking humans.
Carpenter, the Islip town supervisor, said a midsummer reminder was in order for south shore beachgoers.
“We’re seeing this as an opportunity to remind everyone that the water is beautiful — it’s magnificent here on the south shore of Long Island, but treacherous.”
“So you need to be careful at all times.”
One shark expert said that the bites were definitely from a shark.
George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File maintained by the Florida Museum of Natural History, told ABC News that the bites were “definitely” from a shark.
Burgess said that the size and shape of the bites, and the tooth embedded in one victim’s leg, indicate that the shark is either a small shark of a larger species, or a species small in size.
He said it was unlikely that it was a great white shark, because such a shark would likely have caused far more grievous injuries, and the victims may not have been able to walk around afterwards.
He said, however, that he would need to look at a better picture of the tooth to be able to make any definite assessments.
The attacks come just days before the July 22 start of Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” programming marathon, now in its 30th year.
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ABC News: U.S.