Rockaway Beach closed Tuesday after woman seriously injured in shark attack; Jones Beach also closed

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
Officials close Rockaway and Jones beaches due to sharks
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Rockaway Beach will be closed Tuesday after a woman suffered an apparent shark bite Monday evening. Reporter Lauren Glassberg has the latest.

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- The woman bitten by a shark on Rockaway Beach is the first confirmed shark bite in New York City in recent memory, the NYC Parks Department said Tuesday.

Rockaway and Jones beaches were closed to swimmers Tuesday after the incident.

The 65-year-old victim suffered the shark bite Monday evening, and after increased surveillance, there was a shark sighting near the shore of Jones Beach Tuesday morning.

The woman 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 Queens resident who lives in Astoria.

"We hope for a full recovery for this swimmer. Though this was a frightening event, we want to remind New Yorkers that shark attacks in Rockaway are extremely rare. We remain vigilant in monitoring the beach and always clear the water when a shark is spotted," the department said in a statement.

The Parks Department is working with the NYPD and the FDNY to beef up drone surveillance.

Experts say shark bites are extremely rare, with only 57 unprovoked bites last year, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.

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.

Monday's shark bite at Rockaway Beach was the first reported in recent memory, the parks department said.

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.

"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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