WELLFLEET, Massachusetts – A 26-year-old man died after being attacked on a Cape Cod beach on Saturday afternoon by what was believed to be a Great White Shark.
Arthur Medici of Revere, Massachusetts, was boogie boarding with another man about 30 yards from Newcomb Hollow Beach when the attack took place, according to the county attorney's office and Islands.
Medici was the first man to be killed by a shark in Massachusetts in 82 years, and the second to be bitten this summer. A month ago off a Cape Cod beach, just a few miles north, New York neurologist and Professor William Lytton was bitten by a big white man and survived after a major operation in Boston.
"Based on the information I know, the likelihood is that it was a white shark, and I can not think of any other species that would do that," said Gregory Skomal, State Department of Marine Fisheries, a shark researcher.
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Medici was on a boogie board and wore a wetsuit and fins when he was attacked around noon. Joe Booth from Mattapoisett was quite far away and stood in the parking lot on the coastline, which looked to the south.
"It was just a quiet, picturesque day of surfing the beach," said Booth. "I saw an eruption in the water, about 15 feet in diameter."
Booth said he thought Medici would step on a wave. But the excitement in the water was way too big, more like a boiling whitewater roll, near the shore, he said.
"I doubted I just saw an attack," Booth said.
Then he watched Medici's friend follow him.
"I kinda knew: Oh no, that happened," said Booth.
Medici was in the water with another man identified by some beachcombers as his brother, and they both rode with such skill that they drew the attention of those on the beach.
"These two guys with boogie boards and fins did all those cool tricks, made flips and turned backwards," said Wendy Rennert, who had run 300 meters south of the main beach area to a point within 50 feet of the couple.
"They were not too far away," said Rennert, who held the pair for about 50 feet off the beach. Booth estimated her at 30 to 35 feet from the coast.
Rennert said she had just turned away from the water when the attack took place, and she heard the other man come out of the water and shouted, "Shark, shark!"
She said her friend saw Medici fall off his boogie board and swim face down in the water. The other man returned to the water and, with the help of other beachcombers, brought the victim ashore.
Newton resident Eric Pyenson and Wellfleet homeowner Rick Olin were about 150 yards from the injured man, grabbing a towel and running towards him. Medici was "very, very pale", did not react and injured his right thigh and left calf, the men said.
Rennert said the victim wore a short wetsuit, and in the exposed part of his thigh were 3½-inch cuts, each about half an inch wide. She noticed that the wounds were not bleeding and that he was unconscious and his skin was a pale yellow.
Pyenson, Olin, and others attempted to use a towel as a tourniquet, then tried the man's boogie board leash, then a dog's leash, Julian Swistak of Wellfleet said. He and his wife Carol went for a walk with their dog when they heard about the attack.
"I looked and you could see someone was in the surf," said Julian Swistak. He ran down to help, finally trying to make a tourniquet with a dog's leash on Medici's leg. The cuts on the man's legs were "horrible," Swistak said.
"Terrible," he said. "There were cuts on the inside of his leg and his calf was really terribly torn."
"Word spread pretty quickly that something had happened," said Tom McDonough of South Wellfleet, who was surfing at the time. He estimated that 15 to 20 surfers at the time of the attack were distributed from north to south parallel to the beach.
When those on the beach began to understand that a man was injured on the sand, many ran to the rescue.
Booth ran south toward the Medici, and when a woman running to the parking lot confirmed that he had been bitten, Booth said he then ran himself to the grounds and talked to others.
"I was a madman on the beach and called" Shark! ", He said.
A Wellfleet Dispatcher said the first emergency call came in at 12:13.
Rennert said there was no cell phone reception on the beach.
Chatham's EMT and Wellfleet lifeguard Nina Lancotot ran to her car and grabbed a tourniquet and a handful of gauze.
"I ran as fast as I could," said Lanctot.
Off duty lifeguards Adriana Picariello and Eric Anderson, who also relaxed on the beach, ran with her along the beach.
"I think we've seen more shark activity this summer (than other summers)," said Picariello, a teacher at Monomoy Regional High School and a 17-season Wellfleet lifeguard. "That's real now."
Lifeguards on the Wellfleet beaches will be in action from late June through Labor Day, said Wellfleet community service director, Suzanne Grout Thomas.
The beachcombers formed a makeshift stretcher and began to lead the man up the beach to the parking lot, where they stopped about halfway when they realized he was not breathing. They were hit by Picariello, Lanctot and Anderson who started the CPR. Wellfleet paramedics arrived shortly afterwards.
"The Lord was dead," said retired physician John Van Aalst, one of the first to reach the injured man and perform a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Van Aalst, who lives outside of Chicago and vacationed on the Cape, estimated that the bailout lasted 20 to 25 minutes, which he did not feel was good. A better prepared response could have come by helicopter or beach patrol, Van Aalst said.
"It's important that your community knows that and is better prepared for such an emergency," he said.
Witnesses said the Revere man was unconscious from the first rescue to the parking lot.
Skomal said he believed the man could have bled out of water in minutes, and Rennert recalled seeing a wave of red blood colored.
Medici was taken to Cape Cod Hospital by a Wellfleet ambulance, where he was pronounced dead, according to police spokesman David Procopio. Wellfleet police announced his death around 1 pm.
Skomal believed that the attack was probably a false identity.
"Seals are attracted to shallower areas where they do not believe the sharks come to them," said Skomal. The sharks cross the deeper channels between sandbars that hunt seals while they are aware of the real danger of self-engorging. It is a hunting strategy that is somewhat unique to the Cape. Skomal has said that the Cape's large white sharks necessarily perform lateral attacks on seals in relatively shallow water, rather than launching vertically in water deeper than 10 feet, as the researchers have noted other white-shark areas.
Although he still has to investigate the exact circumstances of the attack, Skomal believes that it could be similar to Lytton wading into a deep channel parallel to the beach to swim. Surfers and boogie boarders like to surf waves that break over a sandbank, often wait for the wave or end their ride in the deeper water.
"Unfortunately (Medici) was in an area where the shark was hunting," said Skomal. "When they strike with such violence, they believe that what they eat is an aggressive seal that can fight back, and the violence of Dr. Lyton's interaction and description suggests that this is clearly the case."
"It's just awful, absolutely terrible," added Skomal.