A man died Saturday afternoon from injuries suffered during a shark attack off Cape Cod, authorities said, the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in eight decades.
Bystanders pulled a man in his mid-20s onto Newcomb Hollow Beach and performed CPR, Wellfleet Police Lt. Michael Hurley said in a statement. He was sent to Cape Cod Hospital, where he later died, Hurley said. The man’s name was not immediately released.
The National Park Service, which is responsible for that part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, tweeted that the attack took place about 300 yards south of the beach. Cape Cod National Seashore said it closed access to the beach facing the sea. Witnesses told the Associated Press that the man was boogie-boarding with a friend.
Hurley said the Cape Cod district attorney will handle an investigation into the incident.
The seal population in the area has grown, and with them come sharks in aggressive pursuit, said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research. There have been recent reports of 10- to 12-foot white sharks in the region, he said.
Many attacks occur when sharks mistake humans for prey in hit-and-run attacks, he told The Washington Post on Saturday. Researchers have suspected attacks might increase as sharks have more chances to encounter people, especially as surfers chase waves brought on by hurricanes, he said.
While he did not have details about Saturday’s attack, Naylor said it was likely a white shark that attacked the man in a case of “mistaken identity” in the more shallow waters where boogie-boarders seek waves.
“A 12-foot-long, 1,200-pound white shark moving at 20 knots with an open mouth does a bit of damage,” he said. “They’re like a truck when they get bigger.”
It has been 82 years since a shark attack claimed a life in Massachusetts. Joseph Troy Jr., a 16-year-old, was killed by a white shark in Mattapoisett on Buzzards Bay in 1936.
Joe Booth, a local fisherman and surfer, watched the Saturday attack from shore, he told the AP. The man kicked aggressively. There was a glimpse of a tail that pierced the water’s surface. Then the friend dragged the injured man to the sand.
“I was that guy on the beach screaming, “Shark, shark!” Booth told the AP. “It was like right out of that movie ‘Jaws.’ This has turned into Amity Island real quick out here.”
Booth said there was a frantic race to make a tourniquet and get first responders to the scene.
Cape Cod National Seashore warned beachgoers on its website that no lifeguards are on duty at its beaches during offseason months, and advises them to watch for white sharks.
The man’s death Saturday comes a month after an Aug. 15 shark attack off Cape Cod. A shark’s powerful jaws clamped down on William Lytton’s leg a few yards from the shoreline at a Truro beach, about 10 miles north of where Saturday’s attack occurred.
Lytton freed himself by punching the shark in the gills, he told the Boston Globe. He endured a half-dozen surgeries and hopes to leave the hospital by the end of September, he told the paper.
Shark attacks have increased worldwide each decade because of booming populations, adding more bathers in the water, the International Shark Attack Files said, but nothing indicates a rise in the per capita rate.
Attacks occur in nearshore waters, often near sandbars where potential meals congregate. Last month, Cape Cod beachgoers watched a white shark tear a seal apart just feet away from the beach.
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