68-year-old man pulled under water by 7-foot shark off NC coast; trail of blood on sand

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OCRACOKE ISLAND, N.C. -- A 68-year-old man was pulled under the water by a shark Wednesday in the Outer Banks -- this time on Ocracoke Island.

The man was swimming outside the first breaker about 25 feet offshore, directly in front of the lifeguard stand, when he encountered a gray shark about 7 feet long, Hyde County officials said. A lifeguard saw the shark pull the man under the water. He suffered several bites to his rib cage, hip, lower leg and both hands.

"There was a big trail of blood from the water to the sand," witness Stephen Lee told CNN.

"There's still people here and some people have gotten back in the water, and the park rangers are just now trying to vacate the area," he said. "We will likely go back in the water, but maybe not get our whole bodies in today."

The victim was able to swim out of the water, where a doctor who happened to be in the area was able to stabilize him, said Justin Gibbs with Hyde County EMS. The man, who was visiting from Massachusetts, was then airlifted off the island to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, N.C. The man was stable and alert, officials said.

Hyde County officials said the attack happened around 12:10 p.m. on Lifeguard Beach at the National Park Service Day Use Area on Ocracoke.

Wednesday's attack marks the seventh incident on North Carolina beaches in June and July. Last year, there were only four reported in the state through the summer. George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told WGHP recently that there are several environmental factors that make North Carolina appear to be a “perfect storm” for shark activity this summer.

According to the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, the Carolinas have had 10 shark attacks so far in 2015 -- seven in North Carolina and three in South Carolina. Among the victims, a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy both lost an arm in attacks about 90 minutes apart at Oak Island, North Carolina, on June 14.

On average, the Carolinas experience an average of just over six shark attacks per year.

A number of factors could be contributing to the apparent rash of attacks, such as warmer water and drought conditions, said George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research.

Drought conditions reduce the amount of freshwater making it to the sea, which creates an environment along the shore where high salt levels attract more fish and sharks, Burgess said. Warmer waters also have sharks in North Carolina ahead of schedule, which is a recipe for more attacks.

"Unfortunately, it's an unholy mix," said Burgess.

Last week, two people were bitten by sharks near Cape Hatteras.

On Friday, a 47-year-old man was bitten by a shark in the leg and back while trying to get children and another adult out of the water near Avon.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old was swimming with other people near Waves when the shark bit his calf, buttocks and both hands.

Both victims were rushed from the beach and underwent surgery.

In South Carolina, a shark attack also took place Friday morning at Hunting Island State Park. The male victim was taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital for treatment. No further information was available about the victim or the extent of his injuries.

On June 24, an 8-year-old boy in Surf City suffered what appeared to be a shark bite. Police said the wounds were superficial and the injuries were minor.

On June 14, 12-year-old Kiersten Yow from Archdale and a 16-year-old boy from Colorado both lost their arms in shark attacks at Oak Island.

Yow lost her left arm below the elbow and suffered injuries to her left leg. Hunter Treschl lost an arm.

Posted on the Kiersten Yow Facebook support page on Wednesday was this note:

"Another attack today, that makes 7 in NC. Please everyone be safe. I have seen the "tips" like swim in groups, no jewelry, no bleeding, stay out during dusk to dawn, she was maybe waist deep at most, etc. In Kiersten's case, all of this was followed, unintentionally at the time. There was nothing that seemed "textbook" except for the murky water of NC. Her cousin, who was swimming with her along with a few others, was the first to help by yelling shark and drawing out attention to her... All of your prayers and support has also helped us stay positive during this journey. I hope all of the other survivors have the same support and feel the love we have. We continue to pray for all of them and hope they recover and stay strong.

The chance of an attack is rare (I have read 1 in 11.5 million chance?) but seems to be more frequent recently. Everyone, please stay alert as you vacation."

A 13-year-old girl was bitten while boogie boarding off Ocean Isle Beach on June 11. In that incident, the victim suffered non-life threatening injuries, but the shark took bites of her boogie board.

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