Possible shark or fish bite reported on Hilton Head

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 7, 2014 

A beachgoer was bitten by a shark or other fish while swimming Tuesday afternoon at Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island, according to beach patrol and EMS.

Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division members called to the beach shortly before 3 p.m. arrived to find the patient, Kimberly Popp, of Mooresville, N.C., in a chair being attended by beach patrol personnel, fire marshal Joheida Fister said.

Popp, who was conscious and alert, was taken to Hilton Head Hospital with an injury to the left foot, according to Mike Wagner, operations manager for Shore Beach Service. Popp later said she encountered what she believes was a 4- to 5-foot shark, which she drove away by hitting on its head. She said her injuries required 14 stitches.

Popp was on her way back home Thursday.

The bite was the first this season, Wagner said. The last confirmed shark attack on Hilton Head Island was in 2006, when a 7-year-old girl was bitten on her foot and buttocks at Coligny Beach. Another man said he required stitches that year after he was bitten at Singleton Beach, though that incident was not confirmed by authorities.

Before then, a shark bite had not been recorded since 2001.

Fister said witnesses reported seeing a shark in the water Tuesday, though Wagner said the beach patrol's incident report made no mention of a shark.

"That would usually be in the report," he said. "But if something bit somebody underwater, the odds of anyone seeing what it was aren't very good."

Still, Wagner plans to follow up with the Florida Museum of Natural History, which maintains the International Shark Attack File. The museum will determine whether it wants Wagner to report the incident, he said.

While some sharks and toothed fish can be found in Hilton Head's waters, they are relatively small and difficult to see, Wagner said.

"You wouldn't have to be in very deep water not to see something."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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