LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) — The day after he was bitten by a shark, a Long Island lifeguard is not only talking about the attack, he’s making plans to go back in the water. An expert on sharks said that everybody else should, as well. He added that while nobody wants shark attacks to happen, the increased frequency of shark sightings and encounters — there have been three off Long Island in the last week — is an indicator of an ocean environment that’s getting healthier.
The latest shark bite victim is John Mullins, 17. He was 150 yards from shore, in a training exercise where he had to pretend to be the victim of an ocean emergency. The pretending came to an abrupt end when the shark showed up.
“The teeth were inside my skin,” Mullins said. “It felt like a rake going over my feet.”
He swam back to shore, and was rushed to the hospital, where five stitches were required to close deep puncture wounds.
“I saw pictures of the sharks that were spotted” near the place where he was attacked, off Ocean Beach, at Fire Island, Mullins said. The tiger sharks that were photographed were at least seven feet in length, he said, adding that if he’d lingered any longer in the waves, “I could’ve lost my foot out there yesterday.”
Still, doctors told him that he may be able to return to the ocean as soon as Sunday, three days after he was attacked.
Mullins said that he likes that schedule.
“I’m gonna continue,” he said about his lifeguard training, even though it will require him to repeat the same training in which he became an actual shark bite victim.
“But I’m sure I’ll be okay,” he said.
His attack was the third shark encounter off the coast of Long Island in less than a week.
Last Saturday, another lifeguard was attacked by a shark during a training exercise off Smith Point Beach on Long Island’s south shore. Also, this past Wednesday, at least one shark was spotted off Davis Park beach, which is also on Fire Island.
The spate of shark encounters has left some beachgoers more wary of sharks.
“I’m already afraid of sharks,” said Nadia Gosselin, who’d just emerged from the surf at Jones Beach. “Even if they don’t have teeth,” she said — and they do, by the way, “they’re bizarre.”
She said, however, that the recent series of shark encounters would not stop her from going back into the water. Another beachgoer, Janet Blair, agreed. She said that she and her grandson had been in the surf recently, and felt something touch them underwater.
It was not a shark. “We went back in,” Blair said.
Chris Paparo, the manager of the Marine Sciences Center at Stony Brook University, said that even though a healthier ocean has led to more sightings of sharks and other marine life, shark encounters are still remarkably rare.
He noted that automobile-related injuries are far more common.
“A quarter-million accidents, not all fatal, but [there were] a quarter-million accidents in New York City in 2018,” said Paparo. “Chances are you’re gonna get in a car accident and get seriously hurt before you even see a shark.”