Police gather along Rockaway Beach at 59th Street after a woman was attacked by a shark early Monday evening.Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesCNN —
Officials say there have been three possible shark sightings in Long Island and one confirmed shark sighting in Queens throughout Tuesday morning and early afternoon, a day after a woman was hospitalized due to an apparent shark bite, New York authorities told CNN.
A 65-year-old woman was bitten on the left thigh by a shark at Rockaway Beach in Queens on Monday, the first shark attack at that location in 70 years, according to the NYC Parks Department.
The woman was standing in the water when she “felt a sharp pain to her lower left leg, causing her to fall backward into the water,” the New York Police Department said.
Lifeguards removed her from the water and police put a tourniquet on her leg. She was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center “in serious but stable condition,” and suffered “a severe laceration to the rear left thigh area,” the NYPD said.
A spokesperson for Jamaica Hospital told CNN the woman was in stable condition as of Tuesday evening.
“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,” Gregg McQueen, NYC Parks, and Recreation spokesperson told CNN in a statement.
“We remain vigilant in monitoring the beach and always clear the water when a shark is spotted,” McQueen said.
The attack prompted officials to close Rockaway Beach to swimming and surfing on Tuesday.
Emergency personnel responded to the beach shortly before 6 p.m. Monday and found the woman had a serious leg injury, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) said.
“All indications appear to be a shark bite,” the fire department said.
Since the woman’s injury, there have been three possible shark sightings in Long Island and one confirmed shark sighting in Queens throughout Tuesday morning and early afternoon,
Monday’s incident also appears to be one of the latest in a spate of summer shark bites off New York’s coastline. It was the first unprovoked shark attack at the beach in “recent memory,” New York City Parks Department spokesperson Meghan Lalor told CNN.
Possible shark sightings
At approximately 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday, a lifeguard spotted a possible shark off of Jones Beach in Long Island, George Gorman, the Long Island Regional Director of New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, told CNN.
Officials immediately closed swimming at Jones Beach’s Central Mall, East Bathhouse, and West Bathhouse areas, Gorman said. He said the usual protocol is to wait an hour after a shark sighting before allowing beachgoers to return to the water.
Around 11 a.m., there was another possible sighting at the same beach, Gorman said. After the second possible sighting, officials closed swimming at the entirety of Jones Beach, he said. Shortly after, around 1 p.m., there was another possible shark sighting at Jones Beach.
Officials are calling them “possible sightings” because the marine animal “could not be 100% identified,” Gorman told CNN.
Also around 1 p.m., at Breezy Point in Queens, New York, and just a few miles south of Jones Beach, another shark was spotted a quarter mile off the shore, a spokesperson for the FDNY said, adding that the shark was a “significant distance” from the shore.
Gorman said there are thousands of bait fish swimming nearby, which is what likely attracted the sharks to come closer to the shore.
The unprovoked attack was 70 years ago
The last unprovoked shark attack at Rockaway Beach occurred in 1953 when a man got bit while fishing, according to a database by the Shark Research Institute. The last provoked attack in New York occurred in 2010 off of Long Island, when a man was cut by a shark he had hooked while fishing.
The injury comes about a month after a string of five likely shark attacks off nearby Long Island, which prompted local officials to ramp up shark patrols.
The five non-life-threatening bites occurred within two days of one another and alarmed New York beachgoers. The attacks also called to mind a similar series of shark attacks last summer that triggered several New York beach closures.
Swimmers can take precautions to help avoid attacks, said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research.
“People should always swim in groups. They shouldn’t swim too far from the shore, and they should particularly avoid bait fish,” Naylor told CNN last month.
The risk of being attacked by a shark is relatively low, with only 57 confirmed, unprovoked attacks worldwide last year, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. Of those, 41 were in the United States, with eight nonfatal incidents in New York.