TURKS AND CAICOS (WTNH) — A Connecticut woman is in serious condition after she was bitten by a shark while snorkeling in Turks and Caicos, authorities said.
According to authorities in the Royal Turks and Caicos, the woman and her friend were on a private snorkeling trip around 3 p.m. local time Wednesday, when the woman was attacked by a shark.
The above video aired on the 6 p.m. newscast on May 25, 2023.
The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources said the women were at the Bone Yard dive site in Princess Alexandra National Park, a marine-protected area in the islands.
Authorities in the Turks and Caicos Islands said the two friends were the only people in the water when a presumed Caribbean reef shark attacked the victim in what officials describe as “a case of mistaken identity.”
Accoridng to authorities, a dive boat captain contacted emergency officials and jumped into action immediately after the attack.
An employee at a nearby resort contacted police and requested an ambulance, indicating that the shark had bitten the woman’s leg off.
The captain brought the women back into the boat and rushed them to shore where an ambulance was waiting, within 15 minutes of the attack.
The victim was brought to Cheshire Hall Medical Centre in Providenciales in serious condition, police said.
The victim was later airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, according to authorities. There is no update on her condition at this time.
David Cochran, a shark expert at Mystic Aquarium, said this serves as an important reminder as summer and vacation season begins.
“It’s more likely that it was a large shark,” Cochran said. “They have enormous pressure in their jaws, and that’s what can cause an injury like that. A lot of time, when we’re out swimming or snorkeling or scuba diving, especially close to the surface, we can really resemble a normal prey item for the shark.”
Cochran said if you’re in an area where you may find sharks, “the best thing to do is to be mindful of your environment and your surroundings.”
Experts say if you see a shark, don’t thrash or scream, try to stay calm as sudden movements give off signals of prey, get out of the water and tell others, and have a plan.
“Though incidents such as these are highly unusual in the Turks & Caicos Islands, swimmers, snorkelers and divers, and boat operators are reminded to exercise caution on the water,” the department said.
The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force are investigating the circumstances surrounding the attack.