At least 3 ‘extremely rare’ shark attacks shock South Padre Island coastline

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SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — At least three shark attacks, described as “extremely rare,” left as many as three victims hospitalized after swimming in shallow waters before officials cleared out Fourth of July revelers Thursday, a Cameron County official said.

From about late Thursday morning to about 12:30 p.m., at least one shark attacked up to three victims within South Padre Island’s city limits, Art Hurtado, chief of Cameron County’s beach patrol, said Thursday.

At about 11 a.m., South Padre Island police officers and firefighters were treating a man suffering “a severe shark bite to the leg” off the 4100 block of Gulf Boulevard before rushing him to a hospital, Nikki Soto, the Island’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

By about 12:30 p.m., officials had responded to two more attacks, Hurtado said.

“It’s extremely rare,” he said of shark attacks along the Island’s shallow coastline. “This is very unusual, especially for this area.”

At about 2 p.m., a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter and boat were tracking a shark, while officials warned revelers to stay out of the waters, Hurtado said.

At about 3 p.m., he spotted the shark, describing it as about 5 to 6 feet long, off Isla Blanca Park, he said.

”Currently, the South Padre Island Beach Patrol, fire and police departments (are) patrolling the shoreline and utilizing drones,” Soto said at about 3:30 p.m.

Hurtado said the attacks marked the most serious shark bites he’s handled.

“It’s a very rare occurrence,” he said. “It’s not in the ecosystem.”

About four years ago, a shark left a swimmer with “minor, minor injuries” in the area, he said.

Nereyda Bazaldua of Harlingen told the Valley Morning Star on Thursday that her daughter was one of the several people attacked, but was not seriously injured.

“We didn’t even know of the first (shark attack),” Bazaldua said via Facebook. “It could have been worse. But grateful that the shark just scratched her leg with his teeth.”

Newspaper archives from The Brownsville Herald show that there was a fatal shark attack on the Island around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19. 1962.

According to the archives, a McAllen machinist named Hans Fix died at Brownsville Mercy Hospital less than three hours after being attacked by a shark “while fishing 150 yards off Andie Bowie Park.”

He was with his wife and four children at the time of the attack that day.

Nayo Perez, a former U.S. Coast Guardsman and Port Isabel resident, told the Herald at the time that a man lost part of a finger in a separate shark attack that occurred on the Island several years prior to the 1962 incident.

The Brownsville Herald archives from Aug. 20, 1962 edition. (Archives)
The Brownsville Herald archives from Aug. 20, 1962 edition. (Archives)