Crime & Public Safety

Update: Beachgoer recounts scene of possible shark bite on Hilton Head

Beachgoers enjoy a dip in the Atlantic Ocean at Coligny Beach Park on Oct. 14, 2015. Down the beach near the Shipyard Beach Club, a young girl was injured on the arm Oct. 9 by what observers believe was a shark bite.
Beachgoers enjoy a dip in the Atlantic Ocean at Coligny Beach Park on Oct. 14, 2015. Down the beach near the Shipyard Beach Club, a young girl was injured on the arm Oct. 9 by what observers believe was a shark bite. jkarr@islandpacket.com

It had been a normal day at the beach on Hilton Head Island for Marty Cloninger and her grandchildren Friday as they headed up the wooden walkway to go home.

Then a piercing cry made the vacationing family abruptly stop and turn around.

"We were walking up the ramp when we heard the screaming," Cloninger said Tuesday.

Cloninger said she returned to the beach to investigate and saw that emergency workers had covered a young girl's face with a towel and had wrapped her arm.

The girl had been bitten by what authorities say was likely a shark.

Cloninger described the wound as "gashed to the bone."

It was then that Cloninger realized her grandchildren had been playing with the girl in the water just minutes before they had said good-bye.

Little information has been released about the 10- to 12-year-old injured girl.

The incident happened around 4:20 p.m. near the Shipyard Plantation beach club, according to Mike Wagner, operations manager for Hilton Head Island Shore Beach Service.

Wagner described the girl's wound as "pretty extensive," and it appeared to have been caused by a shark but he could not confirm that.

Wagner said no one reported seeing a shark, including the child.

Cloninger said a shark was spotted about 75 yards away in the same area earlier that week and had come close to a woman's leg.

The girl was treated on the scene by Hilton Head Fire & Rescue personnel and flown to a nearby hospital, according to spokeswoman Joheida Fister.

Fister said the wound was a laceration and could not say what caused it. The girl's condition has not been released, and Fister did not know which hospital she was flown to.

The girl's injury is the third reported this summer in Beaufort County as possibly involving a shark, and the only one on Hilton Head this year.

A man was bitten June 26 while swimming in the surf off of Hunting Island State Park, and a 9-year-old boy was bitten at a secluded beach near St. Helena Island's Coffin Point Road days before.

Cloninger said she was concerned about the condition of the injured girl and grateful her family was unharmed.

"God was watching over our grandchildren," Cloninger said.

Follow Caitlin Turner on Twitter at twitter.com/Cait_E_Turner.

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