According to information received from the City of Newport Beach, at approximately 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 29, Newport Beach lifeguards patrolling the ocean off the coast of Corona del Mar State Beach responded to a female swimmer in distress.
Lifeguards assisting the female victim, who was about 150 yards from shore, observed what appeared to be an animal bite wound or wounds on the victim’s torso.
The victim was conscious and talking to the lifeguards and emergency personnel. She was transported to a local hospital.
Newport Beach lifeguards and police personnel evacuated the ocean from Corona del Mar State Beach to the Newport Pier area. No ocean access is allowed on Monday, May 30, in the section of Newport Beach that stretches from the Balboa Pier south to the City’s border with Crystal Cove State Beach. The beaches remain open, but Newport Beach lifeguards and police personnel are evacuating any individual that enters the water in this area. This is a change from yesterday’s closure area that extended from Corona del Mar State Beach to Newport Pier. The closure will remain in effect until further notice.
A police helicopter that assisted in the evacuation effort also searched the water to try and determine what type of animal bit the victim. There has been no confirmation as to the animal that bit the victim. However, due to the nature of the incident and the type of injuries sustained, authorities are treating it like a shark-bite incident.
“We do suspect the victim was bitten by a shark, but haven’t been able to confirm that because we had no other witnesses and there was no reported shark sighting before the incident or after,” explained Chief Lifeguard Rob Williams of the Newport Beach Fire Department’s Marine Operations Division, on Monday morning, a day after the attack. “We are treating this as a shark-bite incident and are asking everyone to please stay out of the water in the closure area. We’ve resumed our search of the water by boat this morning and a police helicopter will be also helping us.”
Last October, local beaches were shut down after an 8-foot hammerhead shark was spotted near the Newport Pier.
A 7-foot shark was spotted near the Huntington Beach pier last September.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offer tips to stay safe in the water and avoid sharks.
Experts advise swimmers not to stray too far from shore, stay in groups and try to avoid being in the water at twilight or during the night. Also steer clear of jewelry or brightly colored swimwear. And, of course, do not go in the water if bleeding.
“Shark attacks, though rare, are most likely to occur near shore, typically inshore of a sandbar or between sandbars, where sharks can become trapped by low tide, and near steep drop offs where shark’s prey gather,” the NOAA explains. “The relative risk of a shark attack is very small, but the risks should always be minimized whenever possible.”