By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two youngsters frolicking in the surf miles apart along the Fire Island National Seashore in New York suffered puncture wounds to their legs on Wednesday in apparent shark attacks that would mark the state’s first such incidents in 70 years, authorities said.
The victims – a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy – were discharged after emergency medical treatment for their separate mishaps, each with a bandaged right leg, and both were expected to fully recover.
What appeared to be a shark’s tooth was extracted from the boy’s leg and will be analyzed to determine the species of the creature he encountered while boogie-boarding at Atlantique Beach in the town of Islip, officials said.
The girl, a middle school student identified at a news conference with her parents afterward as Lola Pollina, said she was standing in waist-deep water at Sailors Haven beach in nearby Brookhaven, 2 miles (3 km) east of Islip, when she was bitten.
“I saw something, like, next to me, and I kind of felt pain, and looked and I saw a fin,” she said, recounting how she realized her leg was “all bloody” as she scurried from the water. The shark she saw appeared to be about 3 to 4 feet (91-122 cm) long, she said.
Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare in waters off Fire Island, east of New York City, or anywhere else in the state, according to Ian Levine, chief of the Ocean Beach Fire Department, whose paramedics aided the boy who was bitten.
Only about 10 cases of shark bites on people have ever been documented in New York state, the last one in 1948, Levine told Reuters by telephone, citing information he said was furnished by Islip town supervisors.
Neither incident on Wednesday had yet been officially confirmed as a shark attack, but Levine added, “The tooth we pulled out of the kid’s leg looks like a shark’s tooth.”
The boy, who was attending a day camp at the time, walked on and off the police boat that took him to the hospital. The girl later spoke to reporters seated in a wheelchair.
Fire Island beaches were closed afterward until further notice, National Park Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers said.
The tooth specimen, which is “consistent with a large fish,” was being studied by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will report its findings to the Suffolk County Marine Bureau, Rogers said.
Bite marks on the girl also were “consistent with a large fish,” she said.
Separately, a 7-foot(2.2 meter)-long tiger shark was caught by a fisherman at Kismet, another beach town 2 miles (3.2 km)west of Islip, Levine said, adding he doubted either animal involved in Wednesday’s attacks was that large.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)