Friday, June 24, 2011

Orange Beach denies shark attack cover-up

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. - Thursday, swimmers and sunbathers enjoyed the beach at the Alabama and Florida state line. Tuesday afternoon, Tyler McConnell, a tourist from Louisiana was the victim of a shark attack there after he fell from a rented jet ski. McConnell suffered a serious wound to his right leg and foot.
Tuesday, Orange Beach city officials said it was most likely a barracuda bite. Since then, doctors and marine life experts who looked at the wound said there’s no doubt McConnell was bitten by a shark.
Thursday, Melvin Shepard, the city’s aquatics coordinator denied the city was trying to cover up the attack.
“Everything we told people Tuesday night was wrong and it bodes the question: were you guys trying to cover something up to try and make people think there wasn’t a shark attack?” FOX10 reporter Hal Scheurich asked Shepard.
“I can honestly tell you we were not trying to cover anything up,” he responded. “Just like I told you Tuesday night, based on the information I received, it did not appear to be a shark bite, and they felt it was something else.”
By “they” Shepard was referring to the emergency crew that responded. However, the victim’s sister, who was at the scene was quoted saying, “All of the rescue people said it was a shark.”
McConnell was able to drive his watercraft back to the beach for assistance. Officials credit the experience and quick actions of the first responders with potentially saving his life.
“Once emergency first responders showed up and they saw the incident and they saw the bite marks, they made the decision there to fly the gentleman to the hospital versus transporting him by ground,” Shepard said.
Visitors to the beach had heard about the attack, but said it won’t keep them from enjoying the water.
“It will not. But we’ll stay closer in so we can see a little better,” said one woman as she and her friend walked the shoreline.
While the people are still there having fun in the sand and surf, there was one thing noticeably absent from the beach on Thursday. The jet skis were gone.
While shark attacks are extremely rare, Orange Beach officials want to remind people that any time you enter the Gulf, there is the chance of an encounter. If a shark is sighted near shore, double red flags are put up, and people will be asked to leave the water.

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