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'Terrible' Shark Attack in North Carolina Leaves Two Children Severely Injured: 'It Was Like a Scene from Jaws'

( [email protected] ) Jun 15, 2015 11:22 AM EDT
Two children were mauled in "terrible" shark attacks on the same stretch of a popular North Carolina beach Sunday, both suffering life-threatening injuries.
People 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

Two children were mauled in "terrible" shark attacks on the same stretch of a popular North Carolina beach Sunday, both suffering life-threatening injuries.

A 13-year-old girl lost a part of her arm when she was bitten by a shark in an attack that occurred in Oak Island, a town about 30 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, according to Brunswick County officials.

In addition to losing her left arm, the young teen may lose her left leg, Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace said in a Facebook post. She was reportedly riding a boogie board when the shark attacked.

Less than 90 minutes later, EMS received a call that a 16-year-old boy was also attacked by a shark on the same beach, reportedly losing his arm.

Both of the teens were airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, and both were out of surgery in stable condition later on Sunday, officials said.

The horrific attacks happened near the Ocean Crest Fishing Pier, Fox 8 reports, and bait in the water could have attracted the sharks. Wallace told the Wilmington Star-News the second attack "happened so quickly" that there was little time to warn beachgoers.

However, the Oak Island town manager sent an ATV to get everyone out of the water, the mayor said. The Brunswick County Sheriff's office also sent a helicopter up and down the coast to patrol.

Speaking to the Associated Press, tourist Steve Bouser and his wife recalled the shocking scene.

"[People began yelling] 'Come in! Get out of the water! Get out of the water!'" he said.

"I saw someone carry this girl (out of the water) and people were swarming around and trying to help...It was quite terrible."

Bouser said there was a "lot of blood" and people were trying to apply makeshift tourniquets to stop the bleeding. He explained that many people were asking the young girl questions to try to keep her conscious.

"You've got this nice beach scene going on, and the next moment is just a nightmare," Bouser told the Wilmington Star-News.

"It was so much like a scene from Jaws," his wife Brenda added.

George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History, said successive shark attacks are highly unusual, but encouraged beachgoers to be conscientous. 

"People shouldn't be scared to go in the water, but they should be dutifully cautious," he told the news source. "Obviously there's at least one shark out there that's prone to biting and has sufficient size to have caused very serious injuries."

Despite the recent attacks, Tim Holloman, Oak Island's town manager, said that beaches will be open Monday. However, he also encouraged beachgoers to be "a little more beach oriented."

"Oak Island is still a safe place," he said, noting that Brunswick County's boat, Marine One, and helicopter, Air One, will be in the area, according to the Wilmington Star-News. "We're monitoring the situation. This is highly unusual."

According to National Geographic, the U.S. averages just 19 shark attacks each year and one shark-attack fatality every two years.