Bellone: Lifeguard playing role of victim during training exercise is bitten by shark off Shirley beach
A lifeguard participating in a safety exercise at Smith Point beach was bitten by a shark Sunday morning, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
According to Bellone, the lifeguard was playing the role of a victim in the water during a riptide drill when he became a true-life victim.
He said that Zack Gallo was bitten in the chest and sustained an injury to his hand. He was able to walk out of the water after calling out for help.
Gallo was then bandaged and taken to Southside Hospital for treatment. He has been a lifeguard for 10 years and is doing well, Bellone said.
“It was probably the best scenario that you could have,” said Bellone, commenting on the attack during a training exercise.
The victim is reported to have said the shark was 4 or 5 feet long.
Lifeguards even spotted what could have been a second shark in the water as well.
In response to what happened to Gallo and the sighting of a possible second shark, swimming was halted and both Smith Point and nearby Cupsogue Beach were closed for the day.
The shark attack off Shirley beach happened on the heels of one at Jones Beach Thursday where a man was possibly bitten by a shark.
Nassau Police stepped up patrols in the area Friday to make sure swimmers were safe.
Recently up and down the East Coast, there have been more shark sightings, including one of a possible great white shark seen from the air off Cape Cod.
Shark experts say warmer water temperatures are attracting more marine life.
"That brings a lot of bait fish, a lot of migratory fish and that brings a lot of the apex predators -- the sharks," explained Noel Heinsohn, of the Long Island Aquarium.
To keep safe while swimming, experts advise to stay away from fishermen who could attract sharks, avoid swimming near large schools of fish that are churning up shallow water and to always swim near lifeguards and follow their directions.
"We're going into their home, we're going into their territories, so there is always the possibility of a shark, bluefish or a lot of different types of animals that could potentially have contact and create an incident," Heinsohn warns.
Bellone said drones and vessels will be monitoring the waters off the Suffolk beaches on the Fourth of July when crowds are expected to pack beaches.
“We’ve never had an incident like this before. Hopefully this doesn’t happen again,” Bellone added.
Bellone expects Smith Point and neighboring beaches to be open on the Fourth of July after thorough check of the water in the morning.