Swimming With Sharks: As ocean predators are sighted in the Northeast, experts propose an alert system to help notify L.I. when there is danger in the water.
Krishna Thompson still remembers the bone-crunching sound of a bull shark chomping his left leg while he was swimming 20 feet off Grand Bahama Island a decade ago this month, turning the tropical blue waters a cold, dark red. It was the second day of vacation for the Wall Street banker from Long Island who was with his wife for their 10th anniversary.
After dragging him out to sea, then underwater, where the man-eater tossed him around like a rag doll, the then-36-year-old reached up, punched the shark in the nose and freed what remained of his leg from its razor-sharp jaws. He found himself face-to-face with a stunned, hungry killing machine. And he needed air.
“I just started doing a whole bunch of combinations like Muhammed Ali,” he says, retelling the story he has turned into a second career as a motivational speaker for blood donors, veterans, colleges and fellow amputees. After pulling himself to shore where he nearly bled to death, undergoing emergency surgery and a long recovery, he also became a shark conservationist.
For Thompson, the Summer of the Shark—as the 2001 season is known—was less a tabloid media feeding frenzy and more a defining moment in his life. For others, his story is the kind they seek to avoid on LI beaches.
Experts say New Yorkers are more than 130 times more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark. The last shark attack on LI was reportedly in 1948, one of seven in New York State since 1670, none of them fatal. Some say we may be overdue.
A longtime local environmentalist is proposing a public alert system for shark sightings at LI beaches following what he says are a string of recent below-the-radar visits from the ocean’s apex predators in local waterways. Some question the need for such a system and all agree no one wants a repeat of 1975 when the original summertime thriller, Jaws, hit movie theaters—and beach attendance in turn plummeted.
That’s the last thing needed in a tourist haven like LI, which the movie was partially based on—even if the Island is populated by fans of the longest-running cable television programming event, Shark Week.
“I just don’t wanna see an incident,” says Morris Kramer, of Atlantic Beach, who has been fighting to protect local waterways for the past 45 years. “What’s missing and so urgently needed is an immediate government system for shark awareness and shark warnings if they become necessary.”
Nassau and Suffolk county executives Ed Mangano and Steve Levy declined to say if they were for or against the proposal.