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Close call: A shark attacked a seal within feet of a Cape Cod beach

Sharks off Cape Cod.
Sharks off Cape Cod.

A shark took a fatal bite out of a seal off Cape Cod’s Nauset beach, and the water turned red, while a man swimming nearby and two surfers scrambled for shore.

Pat O’Brien was swimming with his 9-year-old daughter when the shark bit the seal 25 feet behind him, he said.

“I was in the water with my daughter,” he said. “She had just gotten out and I was looking up at her, and she yelled something down to me, but I didn’t hear what it was.”

When other beachgoers started yelling, “Shark!” Pat made his way to shore.

He said he could hear the stricken seal and see its blood in the water near him.


“I turned to my left, and I could see it and I could hear it,” he said. “The seal was making a lot of noise, like it was screaming, I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.”

The surfers were farther away and didn’t think much of the excited crowd on the beach. Pat said they later told him they thought everyone was screaming about the eclipse, which happened about an hour later.

When Pat was safe on the sand, he saw the injured seal desperately swimming along the shore, trying to escape the shark.

It was headed straight for the surfers.

“It looked like the seal was trying to get on the shore, but there were so many people it was afraid,” Pat said.

The surfers, two teenage boys, eventually realized there was a shark in the water and jumped off their boards, trying to swim to shore.

Pat said he saw one of the surfers was still attached to his board by an ankle strap, which was slowing him down and tiring him out.

When the surfers started calling for help, Pat and another beachgoer got back in the water and pulled the boys to safety.


“I’ll never forget the look on his face,” Pat said of the boy he helped to shore.

“I heard yelling and screeching and thought the world was over,” said Samuel Scholonger, 16, of Brooklyn, New York, who was vacationing on Cape Cod with his friend and surfing for the first time.

Pat’s sister, Meg O’Brien, also witnessed the incident, and said although the seal made it away from the shark and the crowd, it bled to death on the shore a little further down the beach.

She took video that showed the seal in the water, leaking blood, and the surfers scrambling to get out.

Nauset Beach was closed indefinitely after the incident, according to Orleans police dispatcher Hannah Green.

A shark was also located by a spotter plane in Truro, resulting in closures at Ballston Beach, Longnook Beach, Coast Guard Beach, and Head of the Meadow Beach, said Damion Clements, the interim recreation and beach director for the town of Truro.

The beaches all closed at different times, but the shark was spotted off the coast of Ballston Beach at 11:27 a.m., Clements said. All the Truro beaches have reopened for swimming.

Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.