May 15 2015
Shark bites swimmer on Sullivan’s
Sullivan’s Island was bustling last Friday afternoon; there was a line out the door of Poe’s, the beach was packed with families and sun seekers enjoying an early start to the weekend, and the roads were busy (even with the new parking enforcements on Middle Street). At 2:14 p.m. a call came into Sullivan’s Island Fire Department for an animal bite at Station 18 1/2. The assembled firefighters jumped into the waiting fire truck and rescue SUV and within seconds were heading to the beach. “Why so many vehicles and sirensfor an animal bite?” asked a bystander. “It could be a shark bite,” responded Fire Chief Anthony Stith. Moments later his suspicion was confirmed as a report came over the
radio indicating a male swimmer had been bitten by a shark. Chief Stith hopped into his command vehicle and made his way to the beach. As he maneuvered around the sunbathing bodies with his lights flashing and siren blaring he could see the firefighters helping a conscious and limping male out of the water and onto the waiting beach buggy, a recent addition to the department’s equipment arsenal. Chief Stith had a quick non-verbal exchange with one of his men and spun around, headed back into town and toward the bridge. His new mission was to act as a lead-in vehicle for the incoming ambulance. He sped down Middle Street easily until he hit the heart of the commercial district where chaos reigned, despite those recent parking restrictions that in theory keep one side of the street clear of parked cars. A car was reversing into the middle of the street and had traffic stopped, while a delivery vehicle parked outside Poe’s limited the egress the recent removal of parking would have offered. A few seconds later however, and Stith was parked in front of the gas station, watching
the flashing lights of a Charleston County EMS ambulance coming over Ben Sawyer Bridge.
Back at the beach, with his foot heavily bandaged, the shark’s victim sat on SIFD’s beach buggy in pain, but conscious and telling his story to his rescue crew. He had been in the water, about waistdeep, when a shark grabbed his right foot and dragged him a shortdistance. He was able to jab the shark in its eyes prompting thecreature to release him and swim away. His friend, who was standingnear him, saw its tail splashing in the water during the incident andestimated it to be about 6 feet in length.Once the ambulance arrived, the 30 year old was switched ontothe paramedics’ stretcher and taken into the ambulance where hewas treated with pain medicine for a large laceration on the sideof his foot, before being transported to Mount Pleasant hospital forstitches. The injury was not life-threatening.
Chief Stith said at the scene that this is the first shark bite on
the island in quite a few years. The last he remembered being “a few years back at Station 22.” Sullivan’s Island Town Administrator Andy Benke arrived on the scene a few minutes later and posited that it was likely a sand shark and that perhaps the victim had disturbed it by stepping on, or it mistook his foot for a fish.
In a press release issued a few hours later, Benke reminded visitors and residents that “we share the Atlantic Ocean with a variety of marine life. As such, visitors should use caution when swimming in the ocean or engaging in water sports. The Town encourages beachgoers to use the buddy system in the ocean, monitor ocean conditions for strong tide activity, and refrain from entering the ocean in adverse weather conditions.”