Rockaway Beach reopens after 65-year-old woman injured by rare shark bite

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Rockaway Beach reopens after woman attacked by shark
New York City beaches reopened for swimming Wednesday after a woman was attacked by a shark on Rockaway Beach Monday evening. ReporterLauren Glassberg has the latest details.

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- Beaches have reopened for swimming after a woman was attacked by a shark on Rockaway Beach Monday evening.

The decision to reopen the beach was made after no sharks were spotted by 10 a.m. NYC Parks, NYPD, and FDNY will continue land, drone, and boat surveillance throughout the day Wednesday and into the evening.

The woman's scary encounter is the first confirmed shark bite in New York City in recent memory, the NYC Parks Department said.

Rockaway Beach was closed to swimmers Tuesday after the incident. Officials also closed Jones Beach Tuesday after a shark sighting near the shore.

The 65-year-old victim was standing in the water near Beach 59th Street and Rockaway Beach just before 6 p.m. when she felt a sharp pain in her left leg, causing her to fall backward into the water.

NYPD officers applied a life-saving tourniquet and she was taken to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition. On Tuesday afternoon, she was upgraded and said to be stable.

However, her wound was so deep that she nearly bled to death. She was identified as a Ukrainian immigrant living in Astoria.

"Our mother is grateful to be alive after today's events, and we're all thankful to the lifeguards, emergency response workers, and team at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center," her family said in a statement. "We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support we have received, but for now we ask above all for everyone to respect our privacy as we focus all of our energies on helping her to recover."

Experts say the shark was likely feeding on fish near the shoreline.

"It was probably six to eight feet in length and we've narrowed it down to a handful of species -- bull shark, tiger shark, white shark of course, and maybe even the dusky shark," said marine biologist Greg Skomal.

The shark bite occurred amid a rise in shark sightings at New York City and Long Island beaches due to factors including improved water quality and thriving populations of the bunker fish that sharks feed on.

There hasn't been a shark bite in NYC since 1958 off Staten Island. The last time a shark attack happened in the Rockaways was 1953.

There have been at least five instances of sharks biting swimmers and surfers at Long Island beaches this summer. There have been no fatalities.

Hans Walters of the Wildlife Conservation Society says the number of attacks is puzzling. He says swimmers should stay alert and watch for sudden feeding frenzies.

N.J. Burkett talks to a shark expert about the rising number of attacks in NYC.

"You'll see the surface rippling, the sharks swim through the schools of bait fish with their mouth open, basically shaking their head from side to side," Walters said. "We get in the way of that? We're getting caught in the crossfire."

He said that activity is not likely to end anytime soon.

"We're going to have to figure out how to live with them and figure out how to keep ourselves safe," Walters said.

Track shark activity here.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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