A lifeguard at Jones Beach was “potentially bitten” by a shark on Monday, local authorities said, in what would be the first documented shark attack on Long Island in three years.
The incident, which happened at around 11 a.m, left the guard with a 1 inch gash in his left leg.
“A lifeguard reported they may have been bitten by a shark,” George Gorman, the regional director of the State Parks Department, told Gothamist. “They saw a fin in the water.”
The beach was closed to swimming for three hours as State Police surveyed the waters by drone. The beach reopened at 2 p.m. after the search turned up empty.
Several lifeguards said they were shaken by the reports, and surprised the waters were reopened.
“Some guards were out body surfing. He pushed out the water and felt something grab him and pull him out,” said one guard, who declined to share his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “He swam in and looked down and there was a shark bite on his leg.”
“There’s always sharks out there. When we close for sightings it’s kind of redundant,” the guard added. “The fact that he was bit — it’s unreal.”
But as word spread on the beach of the possible attack, many swimmers said they were hesitant to get back in the ocean.
“It did kind of freak me out,” said Jeancarlos Cruz, a 31-year-old warehouse worker who came to the beach on his day off. “Sharks on the water, you never know if they’ll come back or if they’ll bite anyone.”
The attack comes amid a spate of shark sightings in recent days. One was spotted off Nickerson Beach on Wednesday and two sand sharks—about four to five feet in length—were reportedly seen off field 6 at Jones Beach on Thursday.
Gorman said that the sharks were likely following schools of bait fish that have been swimming closer to shore — possibly the result of cleaner waters. “We’re not sure if there’s anything unusual.”
If confirmed, it would be the first documented shark attack on Long Island since two children were bitten in 2018.
An investigation into the nature of the bite is continuing, Gorman said.
Update, 5:28 p.m.: Nassau County Executive Lauren Curran just announced that she is asking for more patrols:
Due to multiple reported shark sightings, @NassauCountyPD is intensifying aerial and water patrols out of an abundance of caution. I urge residents to stay calm, use common sense and follow lifeguard instructions.
— Laura Curran (@NassauExecutive) July 26, 2021