After Rockaway Beach shark attack, drones on constant patrol over NYC shoreline

ByStacey Sager and Eyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, August 24, 2023
After Rockaway Beach shark attack, drones on constant patrol
After New York City's first shark attack in more than half a century, drones are a permanent fixture over Rockaway Peninsula. Stacey Sager has the story.

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Queens (WABC) -- It happened less than a month ago right near the shoreline here in the Rockaways.

New York City's Drone Task Force was teaching the Parks Department how to use larger-type drones, which enable emergency workers to drop a lifeline to swimmers caught in rough currents.

"A couple of hours after they were done teaching the Parks Department or showing them that drone usage, the shark attack happened," said NYC Emergency Management's Brett Asher.

A 65-year-old woman, Tatyana Koltunyuk, was attacked in what her daughter has described as a nightmarish experience.

"The shark bite happened, so we kind of switched into a different role," said Emergency Management's Wessley Doskocil, "and came out and supported the Fire Department and their robotics team and flying every day."

These drones are now a permanent fixture in the skies along the Rockaway Peninsula, so emergency workers can now watch for sharks close to the shoreline in real time.

"Pretty much instantaneously, it would just be us notifying by radio the lifeguards on the beach," said Doskocil.

Before the attack earlier this month New York City hadn't seen a shark attack since the 1950s.

But this area has certainly not been immune to other deadly threats.

It is important to note that rip currents continue to be the biggest concern in the Rockaways.

In fact, nationally, more people die in rip currents every year than they do from shark attacks.

For the regulars and surfers here, sharks are now just one more thing to watch for.

"It's obviously scary for locals that have been here their whole life," said surfing instructor Gabriel Andrews told Eyewitness News. "But there's always a risk any time you get in the water."

"We're scanning the water for rips and sharks and anything out of the ordinary," said Joe Kern, who is also a surfing instructor.

"Do the drones give you more peace of mind?" he was asked.

"The drones certainly give us peace of mind," Kern replied.

So the drones are now here in Queens 12 hours per day, every day, for the rest of the summer season.

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