South Padre Island, Texas: Shark bites beachgoers on July 4th holiday


Four people encountered a shark as they took to the waters off South Padre Island on the Independence Day holiday, two of whom were bitten and another who was injured while trying to help, Texas officials say.

“Details at this time indicate that two people were bitten and two people encountered the shark but were not seriously injured,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a statement.

The two bite victims were taken to Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville, where one is being treated and the other has been flown out for further treatment, the department said.

The third person was injured – but not seriously – while trying to assist one of the bite victims, the department told CNN. It is unclear exactly how they were hurt.

Another beachgoer said they felt a shark brush against them as it swam by, according to the department.

“Shark encounters of this nature are not a common occurrence in Texas,” the statement noted. “When bites from sharks do occur, they are usually a case of mistaken identity by sharks looking for food.”

Earlier, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Warden Captain Chris Dowdy told CNN affiliate KRGV at least four shark-related incidents had been reported at South Padre Island. The attacks were likely associated with the same shark, which later swam to open waters, he said.

Two off-duty Border Patrol agents from the Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit pulled one of the victims out of the water and applied a tourniquet to their leg, according to a US Customs and Border Protection official.

US Border Patrol Laredo Sector

Two off duty Border Patrol agents helped one of the victims, according to a post from the US Border Patrol Laredo Sector.

One of the attacks was reported to the South Padre Island Police Department at 11 a.m., the city’s Public Information Officer Nikki Soto told CNN. Officers provided immediate treatment and transported the male victim to a local hospital, Soto said.

South Padre Island Beach patrol, fire, and police are patrolling the shoreline and utilizing drones to watch for the shark, she said.

Nereyda Bazaldua told CNN her daughter was one of those bitten Thursday. Bazaldua said her two teenage daughters were in shallow, knee-deep water near the shore playing on boogie boards when they began screaming, “Shark!”

When her 18-year-old daughter Victoria came out of the water, Bazaldua said she “could see some blood coming down her leg,” Bazaldua said. Thankfully, Victoria’s injuries were only minor, she said.

“The shark pushed into her, five to six of his teeth scratched her leg,” Bazaldua said. “The wounds aren’t deep.” Balzadua said the shark lingered in the water for 20 to 30 minutes until moving along.

“We never saw the shark till he was right there with them,” she said. “It wasn’t choppy water and the seas were calm. He showed up out of nowhere.”

A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flew low over South Padre Island and used deterrence measures to keep the shark from getting close to shore after the encounters, a spokesperson said.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Aircraft Division responded to South Padre Island to assist local authorities with a shark attack,” Lt. Chris Olivarez said.

Texas DPS

A Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flying low over South Padre Island spotted a shark in the waters after the attacks on July 4.

Olivarez shared with CNN video taken from the helicopter that showed a shark lurking in the waters and swimming against the waves Thursday afternoon. “DPS remained on scene until the shark was no longer a threat,” Olivarez said.

According to the International Shark Attack File, run out of the University of Florida, there had been less than 10 shark bites reported in Texas since 2012. This places the Lone Star State behind Florida – leading with 259 reported bites – Hawaii (76), South Carolina (45), North Carolina (31) and California (29).

Patrick McNulty, mayor of South Padre Island, said: “Our hearts and prayers are with the injured and their families and we hope for a speedy recovery.”

South Padre Island is about 100 miles from Padre Island National Seashore, at the opposite end of what used to be one continuous island, according to the National Park Service.

Padre Island (also known as North Padre Island) is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, with 70 miles of protected coastline, the park service says. It divides the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre.

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