Autopsy: Shark killed man who washed up in Kill Devil Hills
By Cindy Clayton
© September 18, 2009
KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C.
A Pittsburgh man whose body washed up in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., after he went for a late-night swim off Corolla died from extensive shark bites, according to police and the medical examiner's office.
The man's body was discovered Thursday morning in the 1300 block of N. Virginia Dare Trail by a tourist who was taking an early-morning walk, according to the Kill Devil Hills Police Department.
The man was identified as Richard A. Snead, 60, of Ross Township in Pittsburgh. The body was taken to the regional medical examiner's office in Greenville; the cause of death "has been determined to be injuries sustained from a shark bite," according to a news release from the Currituck County Sheriff's Office.
An autopsy assistant at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, where the autopsy was done, said Snead suffered extensive injuries, including internal injuries. There is no question that the shark attack caused his death, she said.
"Living tissues look different when they receive an injury, versus tissues that are already dead," she said. The full autopsy report is not yet available.
Officials had not determined what type of shark attacked Snead.
When Snead hadn't returned from his swim shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, his family reported him missing, authorities said. Red flags were posted Saturday warning people to stay out of the surf.
The Sheriff's Office today was warning swimmers to be alert "and to be aware that this incident occurred while the person was swimming at night," the release says. Snead had gone into the water at mile post 4 1/2; the mile post is measured beginning at the Currituck County-Dare County line.
"I haven't heard of any (shark) sightings, but I haven't checked with any other jurisdictions," Currituck County Sheriff Susan Johnson said today. The drowning death of a 12-year-old boy who drowned late last month did not appear to be shark-related, she added.
Johnson couldn't recall any recent shark bites, she said.
Experts say avoid swimming at night
Last year, there were 41 shark attacks in the United States; one was fatal, said Maylon White, the director of exhibits and animal husbandry at the Virginia Aquarium.
“Shark attacks are really a fairly rare event when you consider how many people in the United States go swimming, how many people are in the water each year,” he said. “There’s very little chance of something like this, as tragic as it is, happening to an individual.”
For safety, swimmers should not swim alone and should avoid swimming at twilight or at night, he said.
“The thinking is, during twilight hours, when you’re moving from dark to light or light to dark, this is when many animals feed. Sharks are in that category and so they’re looking for food,” he said. “They don’t look to humans for food, but if we happen to get in the way then we suffer the consequences.”
Two 2001 shark-attack deaths
The latest reported shark attacks were in September 2001, when two people were killed and a third was hurt off Virginia and North Carolina beachs.
On Sept. 1, 2001, David Peltier, 10, was surfing with his family at Sandbridge Beach when a shark bite severed a main artery and he died. Peltier's death was the first ever by a shark attack in Virginia history and the first that year in the United States.
Experts said at the time that Peltier could have been bitten by a bull shark because of the location and time of year that the attack occurred.
Two days after Peltier's death, Sergei Zaloukaev, 28, was swimming in shallow water of Avon off Hatteras Island in Dare County, N.C., with his girlfriend when they were attacked by a shark. Zaloukaev was killed, but his girlfriend, Natalia Slobodskaya, survived. In that case, experts said they believed the couple could have been bitten by a tiger shark or bull shark.
The attacks set off a wave of shark hysteria. But in 2002, a study released by researchers at the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File showed that attacks in 2001 actually decreased.
The researchers recorded 76 unprovoked attacks worldwide in 2001, compared with 85 in 2000. The number of people killed in shark attacks also dropped to five in 2001 from 12 the previous year.
News researcher Jakon Hayes contributed to this report.http://hamptonroads.com/2009/09/autopsy ... evil-hills