Shark victims in water at feeding time, experts say

Estes Thompson

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AVON, N.C. – Experts say the reason for a fatal shark attack off a North Carolina beach is simple, if no less tragic: the victims were in the water at feeding time.

“They were feeding, plain and simple,” David Griffin, director of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, said Tuesday.

Sergei Zaloukaev, 28, of Oakton, Va., died of blood loss from multiple shark bites after Monday’s attack off the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. His girlfriend, Natalia Slobodskaya, 23, was in critical but stable condition in a hospital in Norfolk, Va. She lost her left foot and was severely wounded on her left buttocks, hip and left hand.

It was the second fatal shark attack of the year in the United States and the second of the Labor Day weekend. The first occurred 135 miles away on Saturday in Virginia Beach when 10-year-old David Peltier was fatally mauled.

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore created a task force today to determine if any environmental changes contributed to the attacks over Labor Day weekend.

David’s friends, family and young teammates gathered Tuesday at a football field in the Richmond, Va., suburb of Glen Allen to remember him and retire his No. 79 team jersey.

His Panthers teammates lit candles, prayed and released red, black and white balloons – the team colors – at the memorial, and dedicated their season to David, who was bitten while surfing with his father and two brothers. Panthers Coach Bobby Harris gave David’s mother, Carol Miles, a plaque, a helmet autographed by David’s teammates, and his No. 79 jersey.

“He was full of love,” Harris said. “You could hear him tell his mother he loved her 100 times a day, even out on the football field.”

The number of U.S. shark attacks has risen slightly during the past decade, according to the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Fla. Biologists attribute the increase to more people in the water.

Griffin said a bull or tiger shark was responsible for the North Carolina attack. A bull shark also tore the arm off an 8-year-old boy off Florida’s Gulf Coast in July. Jessie Arbogast’s arm was reattached after a daring rescue by his uncle. The Mississippi boy remains in a light coma.

A North Carolina biologist said more than one shark might have attacked.

“When the water’s murky, people are out there swimming, there’s bait fish in the water and sharks are feeding, they’re going to mouth you to see what you are,” said Louis Daniel, assistant to the director of the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries. “That’s just going to happen.”

The intensity of the attack indicates the shark was feeding, said George Burgess, director of the Shark Attack File.

“Once it grabbed, it maintained contact and continued in an aggressive way,” Burgess said. “That would suggest to me that the animal realized what it was doing and was going after what it viewed as an appropriate food item.”

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