Shark spotted near swimmers at Fort Fisher

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Theresa Swenson - email

FORT FISHER, NC (WECT) - Swimmers were ordered out of the water at Fort Fisher Thursday after a shark was spotted very close to shore.

Lifeguards saw what they believed to be a six to eight foot shark swimming in the surf.   They took immediate action by evacuating swimmers from the water; no one was hurt. A red flag was raised to warn beach-goers visiting the recreation area to stay out of the water.

"The lifeguard blew her whistle and she said get out of the water," said swimmer Rebeckah Divler.  "The shark apparently swam right by my sister."

Divler and her sister never saw the shark.

"We saw a shark," said Meghan Doss, who was a lifeguard on duty.  "We were just sitting on the stand and it came really close to the breakers right by a girl's leg."

Jeff Owen, Fort Fisher Park Superintendent, said the shark was more than likely casing a school of fish that was in close approximation to swimmers.

"We don't want to see anybody get hurt -no shark bites or anything like that," said Owen.  "As long as we keep these schools of fish out that have come in, which is what the sharks are feeding on, they'll hopefully move on and then the sharks will move back out as well."

Nearly one month ago, there were no lifeguards at the beach due to budget cuts.   Recently, the parks division was able to restore funding because of the increase in summer crowds.   The situation could have taken a turn for the worse if lifeguards had not been on duty.

"You couldn't see it from the beach, nobody would have realized it," said Linda Harris, a beach visitor.

"Somebody definitely could have gotten hurt if they hadn't had lifeguards, so it's a really good thing that they have them here now," said Divler, in agreement with Harris.

Parks officials recommend everyone to pay close attention to their surroundings, even if lifeguards are in the area.

"This is the season for sharks and jellyfish and lots of people being in the water swimming, so just keep a watchful eye," said Owen.

He said it's been close to two years since the last shark sighting in the area.

The beach will reopen Friday morning, but lifeguards are prepared to keep a close watch on the waters in order to help protect beach visitors from any dangerous situations.

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