ARVERNE, Queens (PIX11) — The condition of a woman who was bitten by a shark in the surf at Rockaway Beach in Queens on Monday has improved, according to Jamaica Hospital, where she’d been transported in critical condition.
The shark bite that the woman sustained — the sixth in New York waters so far this year — was part of an active shark season, as well as a busy week thus far for the carnivorous sea creatures.
On Tuesday, a shark was sighted near Breezy Point, Queens, about a mile-and-a-half west of where the woman had been attacked. Also on Tuesday, much of Jones Beach, about 12 miles east of where the woman had been bitten, was closed to swimming due to at least two shark sightings.
New York City beaches in the Rockaways were closed on Tuesday, after the woman, whose name has not been released, was bitten the evening before.
It had happened at Beach 59th Street, in the Arverne neighborhood of the Rockaways. There, all day on Tuesday, members of the NYPD Tactical Assistance Response Unit kept launching a drone over the beach to see if sharks were in the water. They didn’t spot any.
Still, as a precaution, the beach remained closed all day. Lifeguards were posted to ensure that nobody went into the surf.
It was hardly of consequence, since, on the windy, partly cloudy day, there were fewer beachgoers than there were lifeguards.
Nancy Ugalde was one of the half dozen or so people laid out on blankets on the sand, amid the posted red flags that had the words “No Swimming” emblazoned on them.
“We were trying to have a nice day on the beach,” she said, adding that she and two girlfriends had come out to the Rockaways to get “sun, go into the water,” she said. “But we have to stop.”
Jairio Diaz was also at the beach, soaking up sun. He said that he’d wanted to check out conditions at the beach before heading out from home.
“Just out of curiosity, I just went onto the website,” he said. “They mentioned something about sharks, and I just started laughing.”
When asked to explain, he said, “This is their domain. To hear about sharks on this beach, you don’t hear those stories.”
A sea life expert agreed.
“People think of New York City, we don’t think of sharks,” said Chris Paparo, manager of the Marine Sciences Center at Stony Brook University, in an interview.. That’s a misperception, however, he said.
“Me and my colleagues this season, I think are up to nine or ten different species of sharks that we’ve tagged or worked with,” in the New York City area, he said.
Paparo also pointed out that the region has had windy conditions this week, which have churned up the surf.
“The visibility is a lot lower,” he continued, and “sharks switch from using eyesight to other senses” in such conditions.
“So now, if you’re in the water splashing around, they sense that you may be a school of fish, so they take a bite.”
It’s what he suspected happened to the 65-year-old woman on Monday, just before 6 p.m. The shark bit her in her left thigh, which left her bleeding badly. Police and lifeguards responded, placing a tourniquet on her leg above the injury, in a move that may have saved her life.
The attack was the sixth in New York State this year, but was the first shark bite in New York City in at least 70 years.