Possible shark bite leaves family questioning response
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - An unknown animal in the ocean bit a 7-year-old boy on vacation in Myrtle Beach Monday. Myrtle Beach Police confirmed something bit the boy in the ocean near the 4th Avenue North beach access. Gordon Smith who supervises lifeguards in the area said he saw the bite mark, and thought it was caused by a "sand shark," which is a general term for several species of small sharks along the South Carolina coast.
When the bite happened the boy, Rudy Varney, was on vacation with his aunt, uncle, great aunt, brother and other family members from Williamson and Bluefield, W.Va.
"He started crying, so I picked him up out of the water, and blood was all over his foot," explained his brother Christopher Lester.
Lester said he did not really know what was wrong when Rudy cried out in pain while they were playing in the ocean. Rudy said he immediately knew he had been bitten in the foot.
"We all panicked," his great aunt Carnetta Hopkins said. "We didn't know what to do. So we started back towards the motel to try to get help"
Hopkins said they did not make it far off the beach before others stepped in to call 911 and wrap his foot. Rudy spent the night at the hospital after doctors mended a torn tendon in his foot.
Hopkins said the family understands wildlife in the ocean can be a threat, but they think the call for help could have been made sooner because they were not far from a lifeguard stand. She said a lifeguard never came to offer help though.
"I'm very disappointed that the lifeguard that we had here yesterday didn't offer to help us," Hopkins said. "I think they're supposed to be there to help when there's an accident of any kind, and we didn't get it. I'm very disappointed in it."
Gordon Smith with Huggins Beach Service manages the lifeguards in that area of the beach. He explained the family did not realize the closest lifeguard had left for lunch just a few minutes earlier. He said the next closest lifeguard actually did notice the commotion, but by the time she made it down the beach and called him to respond the family was off the beach. He found them waiting on an ambulance.
"I stopped my vehicle, got out, grabbed the radio and ran up to the boulevard, and I saw them on the sidewalk with the little boy with his foot wrapped up in a towel," Smith said.
He said he realized 911 had already been called, and he helped administer first aid. The ambulance arrived soon afterwards he said. Smith said ultimately the family did what was best, and even if an on-duty lifeguard had been closer the guard would have only been equipped to do first aid, and an ambulance still would have been needed to take Rudy to the hospital.
Some people who were on the beach Monday said they saw the lifeguard go on break. Donna Tolliver said there was not a lifeguard just sitting in the nearby lifeguard stand watching and not responding.
"He blew his whistle and took the flag down and went up that way to lunch," Tolliver said. "It was probably ten or 15 minutes later that I saw the commotion."
Regardless of the explanation, Hopkins said she hopes the lifeguard services review the situation and consider changes.
"A split second can mean a life, and there's a lot of people out here, and that's my concern," Hopkins said.
Rudy is expected to make a full recovery, but he will have to be on crutches with his foot wrapped for two weeks.http://www.wmbfnews.com/