Shark bite victims, saved by quick response, identified

Oak Island shark
Oak Island news conference on Monday
Oak Island shark
Oak Island news conference on Monday

Two children bit by sharks on Sunday were saved by the quick work of bystanders on the beach and the fast reactions of emergency personnel, officials said Monday at a news conference.

The shark first attacked a 12-year-old girl from Asheboro, identified as Kiersten Yow by the Wilmington Star News. Less than hour and a half later, a 16-year-old boy from Colorado Springs, CO., identified by the Star News as Hunter Treschel, was attacked. Both were at Oak Island on vacation. The girl lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury while the boy lost his left arm.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center reports that the boy is in good condition after arriving in critical condition. His left arm was severed just below the shoulder.

The mother of the boy said in a prepared statement, “I would like to thank everyone who has cared for my son, from the people who saved him through their quick actions on the beach, to the transport crew, emergency department team, doctors and staff here at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. I appreciate all their efforts.”

Both victims were about 20 yards off shore in waist-deep water, officials said.

Brunswick County EMS Director Brian Watts said “both were life-threatening injuries” and both were air lifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington for surgery.

“Honestly, they have a really long road ahead,” Watts said. “The key to the success was that yesterday our bystanders did very quick first aid the correct way. We had a very quick respond from our 911 center. And our first responders were very quick as well.”

Watch the full press conference

Whether the swimmers were attacked by one shark or two was not known. Officials had seen one shark that was more than seven feet long but did not know if that was a shark that had attacked the swimmers.

“We can’t confirm the size or whether it was one or two,” Anselmo said. “There’s just no way of knowing that.”

Town officials did the best they could to assure visitors they could still enjoy the beaches at Oak Island, a prime vacation area south of Wilmington. When a reporter asked Fire Chief Anselmo if he’d swim in the water, he responded, “Would I swim in the water? I would swim in the water today.”

And town manager Tim Holloman there was no way to tell how the attacks would impact tourism at the beach city.

“We are still open for visitors,” Holloman said.

In a news conference later Monday afternoon, Hollomon said officials sought to get the word out after the first incident but said, “At that point we were aware of an isolated incident.”

Even after the second attack, there was no mandatory closing of the beach.

Hollomon pointed out that shark attacks are rare in North Carolina.

“I haven’t confirmed this but I think the last attack we had was in the ’70s,” he said.

In his 40 years of studying sharks, George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History, has seen only two other cases of successive shark attacks: one in Florida nearly two decades ago and one in Egypt three or four years ago.

While Burgess had not examined the victims, he said the sharks involved are “larger, more powerful sharks” and likely of the bull or tiger species, which are much more aggressive and have teeth with serrated edges that can easily cut through flesh and bones.

Burgress said, of the two, bull sharks tend to swim closer to the shoreline.

Although he said beachgoers should not be afraid of the water, he added they should be cautious because if there’s the indication of food along the beach, sharks could stick around for a few days. Biting a human, however, could suggest there is not enough food and the sharks could move along quickly, he said.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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