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Officials: NC shark attack victims were in waist-deep water

Associated Press

Emergency responders assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., on Sunday. Mayor Betty Wallace of Oak Island, a seaside town bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, said that hours after the teenage girl suffered severe injuries in a shark attack Sunday a teenage boy was also severely injured.
Emergency responders assist a teenage girl at the scene of a shark attack in Oak Island, N.C., on Sunday. Mayor Betty Wallace of Oak Island, a seaside town bordered to the south by the Atlantic Ocean, said that hours after the teenage girl suffered severe injuries in a shark attack Sunday a teenage boy was also severely injured. The Pilot (Southern Pines, N.C.)/AP

Officials say two young people who lost limbs in separate shark attacks in coastal North Carolina this weekend were in waist-deep water about 20 yards offshore when they were attacked.

Officials said Monday that Sunday's attacks happened less than 90 minutes apart.

The call about a 12-year-old girl came in about 4:40 p.m. The call about a 16-year-old boy attacked about two miles away came in at 5:51 p.m.

The girl lost part of her arm and suffered a leg injury. The boy lost his left arm. Their names haven't been released. Officials say both were on vacation from other parts of North Carolina.

Officials said they couldn't confirm whether the same shark attacked them or give details on the size of the animal or animals.

Officials credited life-saving efforts by beach bystanders. Both victims were airlifted to a Wilmington hospital on Sunday night with life-threatening injuries and underwent surgery.

Martha Harlan of New Hanover Regional Medical Center said both were in good condition Monday morning.

The beaches were not closed between the attacks, and Oak Island Mayor Betty Wallace told The Associated Press she didn't think there was enough time to do so.

The window of less than two hours didn't give workers enough time to make that decision, she wrote in an email. Beaches were closed after the second attack.

"Our local police ATVs and the sheriff's boat and helicopter patrolled immediately after the second one, getting everyone out of the water," Wallace said.

Wallace says that even if the beach had closed after the first attack, the order might not have reached the area of the second incident.

Steve Bouser and his wife were at the beach, just beginning a weeklong vacation, when he said people began yelling, “Come in! Get out of the water! Get out of the water!”

“I saw someone carry this girl (out of the water) and people were swarming around and trying to help,” he said. “It was quite terrible.”

There was a lot of blood he said and that people were trying to apply makeshift tourniquets to stop the bleeding. He added that people were asking her questions to try to keep her conscious. It was “quite nightmarish,” he said.

“It was so much like a scene from Jaws,” his wife Brenda added.

On Monday, the beaches were open, with officials encouraging people to stay only in shallow water, Oak Island town manager Tim Holloman said.

Wallace said: "When something like this happens, everyone is on edge, but this is the first time in memory we've had an occurrence of this sort."

Fire Chief Christopher Anselmo told NBC's "Today" show that Sunday's attacks were his first such experience in 16 years with the department.

"We can't guarantee anything — these are ocean waters," Anselmo said. "There's a lot of fish and sharks that are in the ocean. There's nothing we can do to control that. We can only education people to be careful in the water."

Brunswick County planned to have a boat and a helicopter patrolling the water, Holloway said.

"Oak Island is still a safe place," Holloman said. "We're monitoring the situation. This is highly unusual."

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