FIRST ON 3: Shark bites girl at North Topsail Beach

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Submitted: Fri, 07/01/2011 - 3:29am
Updated: Fri, 07/01/2011 - 5:05pm

NORTH TOPSAIL BEACH, NC (WWAY) — A family from Pennsylvania was excited to be visiting North Carolina for the first time, but their trip to North Topsail Beach did not end on a good note. The Cartwrights 10-year-old old daughter was bitten by something in the knee-deep water that led to her being airlifted to an area hospital.

“I didn’t hurt at first,” Cassidy Cartwright said. “It pulled me down, and it hurt. I just thought it was somebody messing around, and I found out that it wasn’t ’cause it pulled me down again.”

Cassidy is now recovering at UNC Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill after her close encounter with a predator at North Topsail Beach. She was playing with her body board in the ocean when her mother Carolyn saw blood and quickly pulled her daughter out with the help of a friend.

“Together we got her out, but when he pulled out of the water her leg was wide open and it was just… a lot of blood,” Carolyn said.

Cassidy was air lifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Her mom says the doctors there said it was the worst the bite they’d seen.

“At that point I guess we assumed it was a shark bite, but it wasn’t until we got to UNC that they had found a shark tooth in her leg,” Carolyn said.

The bite broke Cassidy’s Achilles tendon and did other damage to her lower leg.

Carolyn is glad her daughter is OK, but she also thinks North Topsail Beach could have done a better job alerting beach visitors when attacks like this happen. She says no one said anything to anyone along the beach after it happened.

“I think the one thing that people don’t understand is is that there are sharks in the water,” North Topsaidl Beach Town Manager Steve Foster said. “That’s where they live, but people are not one of the main things they want to go after. But as far as response, I think we responded appropriately in this situation.”

With the 4th of the July holiday around the corner, Carolyn Cartwright shares some advice with parents.

“It can happen,” she said. “(You need) to be aware of the situation, the risk that you are putting your child into. Just be educated.”

The Cartwrights are expected to go back home to Pennsylvania in the next two days.


  • Guest says:

    I’m sure this young lady is feeling better and well on her way to recovery. I wish her the best and am sorry her experience of my home state has been tarnished. It is a lovely place!
    I am from coastal NC. We moved to NY state a time ago. When we go camping we have to be aware of the bears just as when we go to NC we are aware of the sharks. The sharks are always swimming around people.

    It’s best to always be aware of the environment you are in.

    Remember that when you enter any wild environment, you are in their home and are accepting the fact that anything can happen. If you are not willing to play by those rules, its best to limit your interactions to the zoo or aquarium, where people are “in charge”.

  • Karl says:

    We carry mace with us to protect our old dog and ourselves from unleashed dog.

  • katelyn says:

    i was there when it happend and im her bff

  • katelyn says:

    you wouldnet be saying that if u were the 1 who got bit and im her bff

  • DrainO says:

    It’s the ocean. It’s not a kept secret that sharks are in the every body of water that connect to the oceans, and gulf. That meaning they have found bull sharks 3000 miles up inland from the Mississippi. The need to have posters on a beach saying “Sharks in the Water” is as useless as a sign on the roads that say “Bad Drivers on roads” or “Snakes in the woods”. Yes it’s a sad story cause there was a child involved, but that’s the risk every parent takes when bringing a child to the beach. Doesn’t matter if it’s 3′ or 10′ of water if you have been in the ocean at any point in your life chances are high that you have been right next to a shark, and never been the wiser. I live right here in Sneads Ferry, and will continue to swim in the waters cause I know I’m more likely to be bitten by someones dog or hit by some careless idiot on my way to the beach than attacked by a shark in the waters. Thank you, and I hope this poor child the best.

  • Terri says:

    Is the person serious about “posting a warning” My goodness, it’s nature!

  • Laura says:

    So sorry to hear this! My family has been going to Topsail for almost 25 years and never had an incident. I hope it doesn’t ruin swimming in the ocean for her. She sounds pretty resilient!

  • N. Topsail resident says:

    I have been a N. Topsail Island resident since 2002. I enjoy the ocean waters very much. I have never had any shark situation towards myself, family, or friends ever come up. What i have experienced way too many times is leash law breakers letting their dogs run on our beach without being leashed. North Topsail Island has a leash law in effect for all our protection. But for some odd reason their are leash law breakers out there that think they are above it’s law. My 13 year old dog is always on his leash. And yet he has been attacked by an unleashed dog 7 times since 2002. This past memorial day week-end was no exception. He was again attacked by an unleashed dog that came running up to him. My poor 13 year old is still recovering from his wounds. My neighbor enjoys jogging on the beach. He has been attacked by an unleashed dog twice now. My other neighbor little pooch was attacked by an unleased dog just 2 months ago. Her little pooch had to be rushed into surgery. Costing my neighbor a $500.00 vet bill. Because the leash law breaker grabbed his dog and split without even an appology. I think folks have their fears all mixed up. It’s not the sharks you should be fearing. It’s the leash law breakers and their unleashed dogs.

  • Guest says:

    A 13 year old girl was attacked by a SHARK. That was the impression I got from reading the article. There was no mention of rampaging lethal leashless pomeranians.

  • Guest says:

    I lived in north carolina about 3 miles from topsaid island for about 5 years of my childhood. My father still lives their and i have never had an issue like that. Im so sorry for what had happened to the little girl and it really scares me because i was just their about a week before this happened, my kids were playing in the water and my son had got himself a body bord. I dont know what i would have done if something like this had happened to me or my children. I hope that she is ok and that she doesnt hate the ocean now. But luck to her.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    ….is “Jaws.”

    I mean, if we can have posters comparing state troopers to “what Sheriff Andy would have done,” we shouldn’t be surprised that other experts expect beach communities to follow Chief Brody’s example.

    That poster probably thinks the girl heard cello music before she was bitten!

  • Nate says:

    This shark was pulled in the weekend of the 25th-26th. My wife took the video as the guy pulled the shark into the shore….funny thing is, ppeople were trying to pet it and letting their kids touch it. The shark was released back into the ocean once dehooked.

  • NC NativeMom says:

    I agree that the public should be notified in the case of a confirmed shark bite, but not to the point of creating mass hysteria. It is also important to remember that we are the interlopers into the shark’s environment, not they into ours. I am surprised that we don’t have more occurrences of fish/shark bites than we do, considering the number of people that swim in the ocean along the North Carolina coast.

    As a mom, I sympathize with the parents and hope that their daughter has a speedy recovery.

  • ATSCEO says:

    My heart goes out to this family. I hope the girl makes a full recovery.

    I have read some of these comments and I’m stunned by some of these comments. Do you really need a sign on the beach to tell you that sharks live in the Atlantic Ocean, and that sharks come onshore?

    Sharks are everywhere up and down the East coast. We have 56 species of sharks including Tiger Sharks, Bull sharks, Black Tip sharks, Hammerhead sharks, Great Whites and other species of aggressive sharks. All of these sharks except the Great White are prevalent in NC waters.

    Sharks are going to go where there’s food and other sharks. Whether that’s onshore or offshore.

    Sharks are not the only ocean species that are dangerous in NC. We have Portuguese-man-of-war, barracuda, lion fish etc.

    There are some basic steps that you can take to prevent attacks however there are no guarantees. Don’t swim in the ocean before 10:00am and after sunset. Don’t where shiny jewelry. Don’t go into the water with a cut or open wound. Sharks have an amazing sensory that picks up the smell of blood and flesh.

  • shark guy says:

    I don’t normally comment on things like this, but as a marine biologist here in NC I feel that I need to. You have to understand that there are tons of sharks along the beaches here. If you have spent any time at all swimming the beaches here, than you have been within 20 feet of a shark and never known it. 99.99% of the time, the sharks could care less about coming up to a swimmer, most of them are so shy, that they will spook and run as soon as they get the notion that a human is around. With the number of people in the water, it’s going to happen to someone eventually. Someone is going to bump into a shark and someone is going to get bit. More people are killed by lightning strikes, by bumble bees, or by their own pet dog than they are by a shark. And the sharks are here all the time, from the Currituck to Southport and everywhere in between, so there’s no reason to post shark warning signs on certain beaches in NC. As cool as the movie “Jaws” was, it really caused a lot of undue fear in people.

  • Carolyn says:

    This attack occured at 1:30 pm in the afternoon. We were only in about 3.5 ft of water and less than 50 ft from the shoreline. It was a highly populated beach, but not a protected one. The shark attacks you can pull up online, are only there if they can be confirmed which in many cases they are hesitant to do. The disclosure of the attacks isn’t good, nor did they evacuate the water after occured. This town manager didn’t report this story til he know I had spoken to the media. If that tells you anything.

    Cassidy’s mom

  • Frequent TI Visitor says:

    What I would like to know- and it seem the news never comments on this- is what time of day and where along the beach did this occur? Are there ever any records of this type of information? I realize that shark attacks can happen anywhere and at any time of day, but I’m curious to know a few more details.

  • Carolyn says:

    Because I spoke to the media, otherwise it never would have been reported, no one but the neighbors on the beach that day even knew it happened.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    ….to tell them there are sharks in the ocean. Most people already know it.

  • kendra sea says:

    That poor girl! I pray for her full recovery.
    very irresponsible not to have warning signs posted? Whos job is it? 4Th of july is just around the corner! & why are we being told days later when it happened last Sunday!

  • Carolyn says:

    It was 1:30 pm and a very populated beach, hundreds in the water. They didn’t even tell anyone after it happened so they could decide whether or not they wanted to stay in the water afterwards.

    Cassidy’s mom

  • Chris says:

    I hate that this happened to the young lady and I hope she heals quickly. She now has a story to share that no one else can! I was wondering though, does anyone know what time of the day this happened and how populated the beach and water was? Just curious. Thanks!

  • Wade griffis says:

    This happens every year. Humans invade the Shark’s home. Shark defends home. Unless you have fins, and very few of us do, you should use the ocean for looking at and do your swimming in a pool.

  • Concerned citizen says:

    I am curious as to what kind of shark she was bit by?

  • Jay Hanig says:

    Why are we just now hearing about this if it happened last Sunday? Today is Thursday the 30th.

  • Shelley says:

    I hope the girl makes a speedy recovery and truly hope that this does not traumatize her from swimming in the ocean again. That said, having one shark bite does not mean that there are going to be more, nor does it mean there will be less. While traumatic, it is a minor news story, not a reason to panic and be outraged that there weren’t signs and more publicity telling people there are sharks in the water. The town and other officials did their job, and they recognize that publicizing the shark bite will not prevent the next one, will not prevent people from going in the water and basically serves very little purpose.

  • Shelley says:

    is always an option for those who do not want to interact with nature at all, while being in nature.

  • Donna says:

    We have vacationed at Topsail since 1998. We go again this week. My son was 9 in July 2008 when were were there (Surfide part of Topsail) He was bitten by a shark. My husband was beside him (about 2.5 feet deep water-pretty shallow around 3pm) and actually lifted it out of the water, about 4 feet long-several of us saw it. It immediately let go. My son was hysterical and I nearly had an attack assuming he was really hurt. Fortunately because my husband pulled the shark up it immediately released his foot, it only tore his toes up a bit, no stitches nothing major at all. Another attack happened the same day down the beach and that mom pulled the girl backwards out of the water and the shark kept on biting her foot, she had to get stitches. Anyway, we were treated sorta the same way by officials when I reported it. And after reading and educating myself more, I get that it is more risk riding in my car than swimming. All the same, we make sure we are close by and swimming with a “buddy” when in the water. My son was back in the water the next year, loves telling his SHARK TALE.

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