Local News

Girl, boy each lose left arm to shark bite

Posted June 14, 2015 5:33 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2015 12:11 p.m. EDT

— Two teenagers face a long recovery after being bitten in separate shark attacks off Oak Island Sunday evening.

A 12-year-old girl was bitten near the Ocean Crest Pier just before 5 p.m., and the attack on the 16-year-old boy happened about an hour later near the 55th Street beach access, authorities said. Both were in waist-deep water about 20 yards from shore, Oak Island Town Manager Tim Holloman said.

The boy was identified as Hunter Treschl of Colorado Springs, Colo., according to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The girl was identified as Kiersten Yow of Archdale, according to multiple news sources. Both were visiting Oak Island on vacation.

Dr. Borden Hooks, the surgeon who operated on the pair, said Monday afternoon that the prognosis for both was good despite the serious injuries.

He described Treschl's injury as a "clean transection" of his left arm. Surgeons amputated above the boy's elbow, and he was awake and talking Monday afternoon.

"He's in good shape," Hooks said, noting that younger people recover more easily from traumatic injury.

"I can't tell you how well he will recover. I can only tell you that they've made a lot of advances in prosthetic limbs," he said.

Hooks said the girl's family had asked him not to talk in detail about her condition. He praised bystanders who helped both teens before emergency personnel arrived.

"When we first got to the beach, a lot of the bystanders were helping," said Tracy Carnes, a Brunswick County paramedic. "They helped carry our stuff to the beach and then a lot of them were just helping shelter her from photos being taken of her."

Brunswick County Emergency Services Director Brian Watts also credited bystanders with saving both teen's lives.

"The key here is that the bystanders did very quick first aid the correct way," he said. Hooks defined that as calling 911, applying pressure to bleeding wounds and keeping victims warm, dry and comfortable.

Watts said both teenagers "have a really long road ahead."

Oak Island beaches are not staffed by lifeguards. Holloman, the town manager, said he didn't think lifeguards could have made a difference.

Town and county authorities are considering preventative measures, including handing out brochures to beach goers and suspending shark fishing, Holloman said.

"If you see dolphins or fish activity you might want to get out of the water and get away from that activity," he said. "If you see birds diving down, something could be feeding in that area."

Shark attacks off NC coast

Holloman described the attacks as abnormal for the area.

"Shark activity is high along the North Carolina coast in any coastal town but the events that happened yesterday are very rare," he said. "Oak Island is still a safe place. This is highly unusual."

According to data compiled by The Shark Research Institute, the last fatal shark attack off North Carolina's coast took place near Corolla in September 2009. A 60-year-old man was bitten while he swam at 9 p.m. The institute lists 11 fatal shark attacks since 1881 and 90 in all.

please wait

* Some dates are approximate

(Source: Global Shark Attack File / The Shark Research Institute)

Sunday's incidents occurred just miles up the coast from Ocean Isle Beach, where a 13-year-old girl was bitten by a shark on Thursday.

That teen suffered lacerations on her right foot, but was not severely injured. Her boogie board had two large chunks taken out of it.

"She wobbled out and left the boogie board, and it just went after the boogie board," said Alexa Whittemore, who witnessed the attack.

Deputies using boats and helicopters to monitor the water after the attacks saw a 7-foot shark between where the incidents happened, sheriff John Ingram said.

Despite the attacks, Brunswick County beaches were open Monday, and swimmers were allowed in the water.

"There's no way we're going to stop people from going into the water," said Watts, the county emergency manager. "There's really no way to control that."

Natalia Morozova plans to keep her family out of the water.

"We've gone down here for years as a family tradition, to go to the beach and nothing like this has ever happened," she said. "So when it does, it makes you really think about it and take certain precautions."

Helicopters will patrol overhead to watch for sharks, and Watts offered these tips:

  • Pay attention to fish swimming patterns. If fish dart away, predators may be near.
  • Avoid fishing boats and anglers. Bait in the water can draw sharks.
  • Don't swim after heavy rains or in water that is dirty or murky.
  • Steer clear of dolphins and seabirds, which can be prey for sharks.
  • People with bleeding cuts or women who are menstruating should not go in the water.
  • Swim on sunny, clear days, and always swim with a buddy.