For some Sampson County residents, vacationing on North Carolina’s coast in light of recent reported shark attacks has heightened their awareness of surroundings, and put the brakes, in some cases, on fun in the water.
Tina Coats, whose in-laws own a beach home on Oak Island, said the attacks that were reported over the weekend were a little close to home. The Coats have a home near the Sellers Street beach access point, about 4.5 miles from the first attack and three miles from the second one.
According to news reports, two teenagers were attacked over the weekend on Oak Island, each losing an arm in the incident.
Coats, who has two young boys, said the recent attacks just served to remind her of the normal precautions she and her husband follow when visiting the beach.
“As far as precautions, I always try to whisper a prayer before they get in the water and always try to thank God for his hands of protection when they get out,” Coats attested. “I try to continuously look around where they are swimming and I also try to look at other people on the beach in the water to make sure I don’t see a lot of commotion.”
Coats admitted there aren’t any other precautions she knows of that could be any safer than what she already does.
The attacks at Oak Island aren’t the first shark or sharks to be seen in the area. Coats said while she and her family were visiting the beach last year, they spotted one, but it was farther out in the water.
“We, along with mostly everyone else that was around us, got out of the water,” Coats added. “The boys just played in the sand the rest of the afternoon.”
Just south of Oak Island is Ocean Isle Beach, where a shark attack was reported last week. One Sampson County resident who is vacationing there noted Monday that the absence of vacationers in the water isn’t surprising.
“People here are not out far in the water,” Lenora Locklear said. “They are staying at the edge in just a few feet of water. People seem cautious, staying in groups in the water. Parents seem especially cautious with their children, staying close within reach.”
Locklear said she, herself ,was avoiding going into the water, and Coats shared that she and her family have plans to visit the beach this weekend, but would not be getting in the water either.
“We are hoping to go this weekend, but we will not be getting in the water,” she stressed. “The shark attacks and sightings are going to have to die down before we get back in.”
For those who have plans to visit the beach, officials advise to swim in groups and avoid swimming at dawn or dusk and near piers, where people may be fishing.