A Connecticut woman is in serious condition in a Turks and Caicos hospital after a shark bit off one of her legs, officials announced Wednesday.
The woman, 22, had been snorkelling with a friend off the coast of the Turks and Caicos islands when the shark attacked her, the Royal Turks and Caicos Police said on social media.
The attack happened in the waters outside the Blue Haven Resort on the island of Providenciales, part of Turks and Caicos.
An employee of the resort called for an ambulance around 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, and during the call, they indicated the "victim had her leg bitten off by a shark," law enforcement said. The woman was transported to Cheshire Hall Medical Centre on Providenciales, where she is in critical condition.
A Case of Mistaken Identity, Woman Attacked by Caribbean Reef Shark
Big Blue Collective, an eco-adventures and water sports company in the Turks and Caicos Islands, said in a statement on Thursday, "The calm, quick and measured response from one of our captains and office team meant that the victim was extracted from the ocean and dispatched in the ambulance in 15 minutes, saving them from a potentially life-threatening situation."
The company called the attack, which it said happened in clear, calm waters, "unfortunate" and "what is known in diving circles as a case of mistaken identity," according to the statement.
The victim and her friend were on a private trip aboard a private vessel unrelated to one of Big Blue Collective's excursions at the time of the attack by a presumed Caribbean reef shark, the company's statement said.
The young woman was lucid enough to get back to the boat for help when she realized she was injured. Immediately the team on the boat, which included Big Blue employees, though it was not their charter, jumped into action, retrieving her foot and trying to staunch the bleeding from her limb.
Shark Attacks are a Rare Occurrence
Shark attacks are often covered sensationally by media worldwide, sparking fear in swimmers and surfers despite such incidences remaining a rare sight. Scientists say there are usually between 70 and 80 unprovoked shark bites annually around the world for the last decade.
There were only 57 unprovoked bites last year, five of which were fatal, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File. There were nine such deaths the year prior. Scientists are attributing the decrease in shark attacks to declining shark populations globally.
Scientists noted that although its perfectly safe for people to swim in the water, beachgoers should take simple precautions like not carrying shiny objects into the water and not swimming at dawn and dusk.
"We are intruders in their environment. What we can do is be logical and safe about that and avoid areas where sharks are going to be feeding," James Sulikowski, director of Oregon State University's Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station, told Associated Press.
"When an interaction occurs, it's mistaken identity â we are in an area where a shark is looking to eat," he said.