Boy's wound could be shark bite
An 11-year-old boy vacationing on Hilton Head Island received 37 stitches Monday morning after what he says he believes to be a shark bit his leg.
This comes a day after a North Carolina man was attacked by a shark in waist-deep water off Fripp Island. In that attack, the victim suffered a gash measuring 13.5 centimeters (5.5 inches). While a Lowcountry Medical Group surgeon confirmed the Sunday incident was a shark bite, officials were not sure about the boy's injury.
Tripp Choate of Clyde, N.C., said he and his father, Hamp Choate, were swimming off Coligny Beach in water about 4 1/2 feet deep when he felt something tug at his leg and swim away.
"It didn't really feel like a bite," Tripp said Tuesday. "It hit me and went away."
Michelle Choate, Tripp's mother, said she saw blood pouring from Tripp's left leg. The encounter left five or six gashes more than 2 inches in diameter on his shin.
"The minute I saw him, I said, ÂŒOh my God,' " Michelle Choate said. "It was bleeding bad and cut open."
Hamp Choate said he rushed his son to Urgent Care, where a doctor and three emergency medical technicians said Tripp's wounds "looked like they came from a juvenile shark about 4 1/2 to 5 feet long."
Kelly Presnell, spokeswoman for Hilton Head Medical Center and Clinics, said there is no definitive evidence the injury came from a shark.
Ralph Wagner, director of Shore Beach Services, also could not comment. He said beach personnel were not involved.
He said Shore Beach Services is not "flying caution flags" because of the recent ocean incidents.
Wagner said shark attacks are rare in Lowcountry waters. He recalled the last attack on Hilton Head occurred in 1994, when a Gaithersburg, Md., woman was bitten on the right side of her body by a fish with a bite radius of 18 inches while swimming at North Forest Beach.
"There are sharks in the waters every day," Wagner said. "But it's an accident when a shark bites. It's not like they're there looking for someone."
He said in the event of a shark attack, lifeguards apply basic first aid or call emergency medical professional, depending on the severity of the attack. Swimmers are evacuated from the ocean only when lifeguards spot dorsal fins in the waters.
Town of Hilton Head Island Mayor Tom Peeples said he would not recommend any warning signs on the beach alerting swimmers of sharks.
"The possibility (of shark attacks) always exists," Peeples said. "But there's no reason to overreact. If you look at the law of averages, you're a whole lot safer standing in the surf than driving a car ... It's not like we have Jaws skirting up and down the surf."
In fact, shark attacks are rare, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack Database. Thirty-six attacks have been recorded in South Carolina since the late 1800s; three were fatal.
Jennie Davis, a spokeswoman with the Department of Natural Resources, said during the summer there is an influx of sharks searching for warm water.
Davis said there are at least 18 species of sharks that live in the state's coastal waters, including lemon, tiger, hammerhead, black nose, sandbar and spinner shark.
"Attacks usually occur in the surf and result in minor injuries," she said. "... Given the fact that we have more sharks in our coastal waters and so many people here, you would expect even more attacks."
Although the likelihood of a shark attack is rare, Davis said, "We advise people to use common sense - don't swim at night when sharks' feeding activities are increased, and be sure to never swim alone."
Tripp said he's not in a lot of pain, but he's disappointed the stitches prevent him from swimming - in the pool - at the tail end of his vacation on Hilton Head.
"I think I will go out in the ocean again, just no that far out," he said.