The state’s top shark scientist said this afternoon that the man bitten while swimming off Ballston Beach in Truro was the likely victim of a great white shark attack. It was the first confirmed great white shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.
“In all likelihood, these injuries can be attributed to a great white shark,’’ Greg Skomal said at an afternoon press conference in Boston. “While the last confirmed injury caused by a white shark in Massachusetts occurred in 1936, the weight of evidence—including eyewitness sighting of a fin, the presence of seals, and the extent of injury—points to a white shark.’’
Skomal is a senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
The man was attacked around 3:30 p.m. Monday while body surfing with his teenage son. He made it to shore and was rushed first to Cape Cod Hospital and then to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment.
The shark attack victim, Chris Myers, is at MGH receiving medical care, but has instructed the hospital not to release any further information on his condition to the media, an MGH spokesman said this afternoon.
Skomal said he has not interviewed or examined Myers, but added that he is “more than 90 percent’’ certain that Myers had been attacked by a great white shark. The state is tracking nine great white sharks, measuring between 9 and 18 feet, Skomal said.
The last shark attack in Massachusetts took place in 1936 in Buzzards Bay. Sixteen-year-old Joseph Troy Jr. died after sustaining a massive leg wound.
Earlier today in Truro, visitors to Ballston Beach were being cautious.
Sitting safely on the sandy beach, 25-year-old Seth Blaustein recalled how he jumped into the water on Monday after he realized that Myers had been attacked by a shark. He grabbed his boogie board and helped the injured man and his teenaged son as they struggled to swim to shore.
But today Blaustein and his family were staying firmly put on the sand.
“The risk of a shark attack is pretty low right here — he was very far out there in the water,” said Blaustein, sitting on a beach chair a few feet away from where the bloodied Myers had come ashore Monday. “But I’m probably not going to go in [the ocean] because the thought is so fresh in my mind.”
Blaustein was one of a few dozen sunbathers who came to Ballston Beach today where most declined to venture more than knee-deep into the surf, after Myers man was rushed to the hospital with lacerations to both legs.
Though beaches were kept open after Monday’s incident, signs posted on the sand warned potential swimmers of recent shark sightings.
“I swim every day I’m here,” said Christine Blaustein, Seth’s mother. “But I’m not going in the water today.”
Longtime vacationers in this town— the last before Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod—said they have seen increasing numbers of seals in the area, but had hoped that sharks would remain further south on the Cape, where they have been frequently spotted off the coasts of Chatham and Orleans.
“We felt that’s where they would stay,” said Carol Pesiri, 68, who splits her time between Truro and Milton. “But apparently not.”
The threat of a shark attack failed to deter Trevor Hennessey, 25, of West Roxbury, from taking a swim on Ballston Beach Tuesday morning, proclaiming later that he was “not nervous at all.”
His girlfriend, however, felt differently.
“I woudn’t go in,” said Hayley Norton, 26.
Hennessey explained that he felt a shark attack wouldn’t occur close to shore—plus, he said, he would not let fear prevent him from enjoying all the perks of a vacation on Cape Cod.
“There’s a lot of accidents on Route 128, but you still drive,” Hennessey said. “Still, when I was in the water, my head was on a swivel.”Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.