South Carolina

19-year-old injured by possible shark attack off North Carolina beach, town and family say

A 19-year-old man was injured by what town officials called a “marine” animal bite off the beach in Ocean Isle, North Carolina.

An animal bit the teenager’s foot, Ocean Isle Town Administrator Daisy Ivey told McClatchy. Emergency crews took him to the hospital, Ivey said.

The family of Austin Reed said the 19-year-old is expected to be “fine” following the attack that occurred while he was surfing, WECT reported. He is a UNC Wilmington student, according to WTVD.

Reed was taken to a Wilmington-area hospital, where officials said he was conscious and in stable condition, according to WTVD.

His father said surgery closed about 10 inches of wounds on Reed’s foot, but “a full recovery” is expected, per the TV station.

Ivey told McClatchy the possible shark attack happened near the Beaufort Street beach access on Ocean Isle at about 2 p.m.

Family members told WWAY that a shark bit the 19-year-old.

The teen’s grandmother said the injury on his foot resembled a “deep tooth bite,” according to the TV station.

Reed’s playful nature had his surfing partners doubting he had been attacked — initially.

“Austin’s one to goof around a lot, so when he told his buddy out in the ocean, he’s like, ‘Yo, I got bit by a shark.’ He didn’t believe him at first, you know, the boy who cries wolf,” Ethan Reed said, according to WECT. “But once Tyler saw his foot, saw that it was bleeding, he was like, ‘Yo, we got to go in.’”

Reed talked to ABC News from the hospital, revealing the bite was bone deep but he is able to move most of his toes.

“I asked for (my friend) to look at my foot cause I was kind of scared to look at it -- like I was scared that maybe the shark took a toe off or something,” he told ABC. “It’s pretty bad. And I looked at it and there was blood everywhere.”

ABC reports Reed was in stable condition and would likely need physical therapy for the bite.

“I think I’m gonna be a pool person for a little bit, but I think I’ll definitely go back to the beach,” he told ABC.

On the shore, Reed’s mother used her knowledge as a registered nurse to treat the wound until EMS took the teen to the area hospital, the TV station reported.

The attack is being investigated by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and Ocean Isle Police, per WTVD.

If confirmed as a shark bite, this will be the second case of a shark attack in North Carolina this season. Seventeen-year-old Paige Winter lost most of her leg after a shark attack at Fort Macon State Park on June 2.

According to University of Florida study in 2017, there was an average of two to three shark attacks per year for the previous 14 years in North Carolina, which has not had a fatal attack since 2001, the News & Observer reported.

In 2018, there were three reported cases of unprovoked shark attacks in North Carolina, the same number as in South Carolina, the University of Florida study showed.

The risk of being killed in a shark attack is 1-in-3,748,067, according to the study, meaning there are better chances of dying of the flu, drowning, lightning strikes or train crashes among other possibilities.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.
Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.