Two people were injured in apparent shark attacks at separate beaches off New York’s Long Island on Wednesday, though neither of the incidents was life-threatening, officials said.
The attacks happened at Seaview Beach and Smith Point on Fire Island, which is a barrier island off Long Island, NBC News reported. The second incident occurred only hours after the first, which had prompted officials to close the beach for some time.
The first attack occurred when a paddleboarder was bitten in the water just east of the main beach at Smith County Point Park around 7:30 a.m., said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during a press briefing.
Bellone said the man was knocked off his paddleboard by the shark and then fell into the water. He punched the apex predator in response, but the surfer was bitten by the shark after it “came back towards him.”
“At that moment, fortunately, a wave hit that carried the surfer and the paddleboard into shore,” he told reporters. “And that was the last contact with the shark.”
The man suffered a four-inch gash in his leg “from apparently a tiger shark” that was approximately four feet in length, Bellone said. He added that the incident marked a “new normal.”
“These tiger sharks are just a little bit closer to shore than they’ve been,” Bellone said. “They’ve always been here. They’ve always been out here, but they’re closer to shore now.”
The man was later identified as 41-year-old Shawn Donnely.
“When I was falling off my board, I saw the fin and its back,” Donnely told NBC New York. “I just had to take a second. I looked — my arms were there, my legs were there, I was like ‘I’m okay.’ ... I put my board between me and it, it went underneath me, I slapped it and it was gone.”
Swimming was suspended at the beach that morning due to “dangerous marine life activity,” the Suffolk County Parks Department tweeted. During that period, Bellone said, searchers attempted to look for the shark, but no sightings of it were reported. The beach was reopened later Wednesday afternoon.
It marked the second time that a shark attack was reported at Smith Point, with the first having occurred less than two weeks ago, when a lifeguard there was bitten by a shark during a training exercise, NBC News reported. The incident was the first reported attack there since the park opened in 1959.
Later in the day, a 49-year-old Arizona man was bitten on both the wrist and the buttocks around 6 p.m. in waist-deep water off Seaview Beach, NBC News reported. That man was able to walk out of the water and is expected to survive, NBC New York reported.
Only 12 unprovoked shark attacks have been confirmed in New York in total, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.