Shark attacks Hunting Island swimmer

Two teens lost limbs to shark attacks earlier this month at this Oak Island, N.C. beach.

HUNTING ISLAND — A man who saw a shark and began yelling to other swimmers Friday was bitten by a second shark, he told rescue workers.

Alert flags were flying and lifeguards were warning swimmers at Hunting Island State Park, but they were not being kept out of the water.

“We’re advising people to be cautious, but we have not prohibited them from swimming,” said Dawn Dawson-House, S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism spokeswoman. The park has four lifeguards and two park rangers are patrolling, she said.

The man was bitten on the top of his foot by a shark he estimated to be 4 feet long; the injury is not believed to be too serious, said Scott Harris, Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District spokesman. The man, in his mid-40s, is on vacation from Pennsylvania. He was waist deep in rough water with three-foot waves.

“He was in pretty good spirits,” said Station 22 Fire Chief Arthur Washington, “but he was in pretty serious pain.”

The attack came while gusty offshore winds were driving baitfish closer to shore and drawing sharks. Geoffrey White of Knoxville, Tenn., fishing at the Folly Beach pier, said he had caught six sharks this week at Folly, the largest about 5 feet. He hooked nine sharks that got away.

The Hunting Island bite is at least the second at South Carolina beaches this year. In May, a 30-year-old man swimming off Sullivan’s Island also was nipped on the foot by a shark that witnesses said was about six feet long.

The Friday attack came after a man was bitten on his back by a shark Thursday at Avon, N.C., according to media reports. It’s the latest in a series of North Carolina shark bites, and follows the attacks earlier this month in North Carolina in which two teens lost limbs at Oak Island.

The apparent uptick in bites in the Carolinas is a concern, said Gary Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Studies. But several attacks in a short period of time aren’t that unusual, and tend to be followed by long periods without attacks.

“Clearly the conditions are good for sharks to be close to the shore, and clearly more people are in the water (this time of year),” he said. “I don’t think we’re under siege or anything like that.”

At least 39 of the world’s 400-plus shark species are found off South Carolina. Most attacks are just tasting nips when a human thrashing in murky water is mistaken for prey, experts agree. Few nips occur, despite thousands and thousands of people in the water each year.

Serious wounds are rare in this state, and South Carolina hasn’t had a fatal attack since the 1850s.

Prentiss Findlay contributed to this report. Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.