OCRACOKE, N.C. (NBC News) — It’s still not safe to go in the water. A 68-year-old man swimming off the North Carolina coast was attacked by a shark Wednesday and had to be flown to the hospital, authorities said.
The unidentified beachgoer was in just waist-deep water, about 30 feet from the shore along Ocracoke Island, when the shark bit him at midday, said National Park Service spokeswoman Cyndy Holda. She said the man was bitten on his left lower torso, his hip, his lower left leg and both hands. He was treated at the scene and flown to Greenville, on the mainland. His condition wasn’t immediately known.
One witness said the man was able to swim to shore without any help, but he looked stunned and pale when he emerged from the water. “His wound on his leg looked like a 5-inch gash,” said North Carolina resident Lynette Holman, who was vacationing on Ocracoke with her husband. “The news spread really quickly, and everyone ran out of the water when they heard what happened.”
Another witness, 15-year-old Jackson Fuqua, said the victim was bleeding and had a “baseball-size chunk taken out above his knee.” People weren’t in a panic, Fuqua added, but park rangers were calling swimmers to the shore. Holman said about eight people, including lifeguards, helped to tend to the man before an ambulance came and he was transported by air.
This was the third shark attack along the North Carolina coast since the weekend, Holda said, bringing the total number of encounters to at least six since June. In an attack on Saturday, a 17-year-old was in critical condition after a shark bit him on his calf, buttocks and both hands at a beach on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. A day earlier, a 47-year-old man suffered injuries to his right leg and lower back believed to have been caused by a shark.
Holda told NBC News that the water temperature was in the 80s on Wednesday — with perfect conditions for attracting sharks. “The combination of beautiful warm water, a lot of bait fish and smaller fish attracting sharks, and other large fish — and then add all of these people in the water — it’s a recipe for accidents or disasters,” Holda said. She also warned that swimmers appear to be getting too close to where people are fishing — areas that also draw hungry sharks because of the bait. “They’ll feed on people, too, if they happen to be standing in their way,” Holda said. “But they’re not specifically seeking people out.”