'Business as Usual' on Beaches Here After Fire Island Shark Bites

Lifeguards kept watch on the ocean at Main Beach in East Hampton on Wednesday afternoon, where they were flying a yellow flag, not because of the shark bites in the water off Fire Island, but because of rough conditions. Johnette Howard

Officials responsible for public beaches in East Hampton and Southampton said they were aware that two young swimmers at separate Fire Island beaches suffered apparent shark bites Wednesday afternoon and had alerted their lifeguard staffs to be extra vigilant about scanning the surf for sightings of sharks.

“But beyond that, it’s business as usual at our beaches,” Eric Bramoff, captain of the East Hampton Village lifeguards, said in an interview at Main Beach on Wednesday afternoon. “We stay in touch with the Town of Southampton and Town of East Hampton staffs and share information,” he said.

Kristen Doulos, who oversees the lifeguards for the Town of Southampton through its Parks and Recreation Department, wrote via email, “We did receive word from Suffolk County, and all of our guards have been informed to be on the lookout. We have not had any reports of activity, and currently no closures at our beaches. [Suffolk County] said that although they have not received any other similar events in any other areas, they were notifying us as a precautionary measure.”

Fire Island officials ordered swimmers out of the water at all of its South Shore beaches on Wednesday after a 12-year-old girl swimming at Sailor’s Cove was bitten shortly after 11 a.m. and taken to a hospital after being treated at the scene.

A little while later about four and a half miles away, a 13-year-old boy who was body-boarding at Atlantique Beach came limping out of the water bleeding from an injury on his leg. He was treated at the scene and taken to the hospital too. But unlike in the Sailor’s Cove incident, a shark was spotted at Atlantique Beach swimming about 25 yards offshore.

Officials said whatever bit the boy left a tooth in his leg that they hope to analyze to identify what type of shark it was.

Neither injury was considered life-threatening.

Patty Poulan, a 30-year visitor to Fire Island who was on Atlantique Beach at the time, said she didn’t see the attack happen but she did see the shark’s fin after lifeguards rushed over to help the boy. She then watched as the shark swam westward — soon chased by Coast Guard boats. Before long, Ms. Poulan said, news helicopters were also flying overhead.

“It was crazy,” said Ms. Poulan. “You have shark sightings here, even on the bay side. But there’s never been an attack here. After this, no more swimming in the ocean for me.”

Both Mr. Bramoff and Scott Curatolo-Wagemann, an investigator for the Global Shark Attack File who also works for Cornell Cooperative Extension's Marine Program, stressed that the chances of such attacks happening are extremely rare. “You have more of a chance of a coconut falling on your head and killing you,” Mr. Curatlolo-Wagemann said. “But now that an attack apparently has happened, I’m sure we’ll try to study what it was.”

Mr. Curatolo-Wagemann, who survived a shark attack as a college student in the Bahamas, was already scheduled to give lectures on Friday and Saturday of this week at the Montauk Library. He said his quick check on Wednesday afternoon of the Global Shark Attack’s records showed the last unprovoked shark attack in Suffolk County was in 1953, and only a handful have happened since the early 1800s, when recordkeeping began.