WELLFLEET — A 26-year-old Revere man died after he was attacked by what was believed to be a great white shark Saturday afternoon at Newcomb Hollow Beach.
The Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office identified the man as Arthur Medici.
Witnesses at the scene told police that Medici and another man were about 30 yards off the beach boogie boarding when the attack occurred, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.
State Police said Medici’s family has been notified. He was the first man killed by a shark in Massachusetts in 82 years, and the second to be bitten this summer.
Newcomb Hollow is one of four of Wellfleet’s Atlantic coast town beaches, and is just south of the Truro town line, where one month ago, New York neurologist and professor William Lytton was bitten by a great white and survived after extensive surgery in Boston.
“Based on the information I know, the highest probability is that it was a white shark. I can’t think of any other species that would do this,” said Gregory Skomal, state Division of Marine Fisheries shark researcher.
Medici was on a boogie board wearing a wetsuit and flippers when he was attacked at around noon. Mattapoisett resident Joe Booth was a fair distance away, standing in the parking lot on top of the coastal bluff looking south.
“It was just a quiet, picturesque day of surfing at the beach,” Booth said. “I saw an eruption in the water, about 15 feet in diameter.”
Booth said he thought Medici was kicking for a wave. But the commotion in the water was far too large, more like a boiling, whitewater roll, near to shore, he said.
“I was like doubting the fact that I just saw an attack,” Booth said.
Then he watched Medici’s friend go back in after him.
“That’s when I kind of knew, ‘Oh, no, this has happened,’” Booth said.
Medici was in the water with another man, who some beachgoers identified as his brother, and they were both riding 3- to 4-foot waves with such skill that it drew the attention of those on the beach.
“These two guys with boogie boards and fins were doing all these cool tricks, doing flips, spinning backwards,” said Wendy Rennert, who had walked 300 yards south from the main beach area to a spot within 50 feet of the pair.
“They weren’t out too far,” said Rennert, who thought the pair was around 50 feet from the beach. Booth estimated them at 30 to 35 feet from shore.
Rennert said she had just turned away from the water when the attack occurred, and she heard the other man come out of the water yelling “Shark! Shark!”
She said her friend saw Medici fall off his boogie board and float face down in the water. The other man returned to the water and with help from other beachgoers brought the victim to shore.
Newton resident Eric Pyenson and Wellfleet homeowner Rick Olin were about 150 yards from the injured man, and grabbed a towel and ran toward him. Medici was “very, very pale,” unresponsive and injured on the right thigh and left calf, the men said.
Rennert said the victim was wearing a short wetsuit and there were 3½ inch gashes in the exposed part of his thigh that were each about a half inch wide. She noticed the wounds were not bleeding and that he was unconscious and his skin a pale yellow.
Pyenson, Olin and others attempted to use a towel as a tourniquet, then tried the leash of the man’s boogie board, then a dog’s leash, said Julian Swistak of Wellfleet. He and his wife, Carol, were walking their dog when they heard about the attack.
“I looked, and you could see somebody was lying in the surf,” Julian Swistak said. He ran down to help, and eventually attempted a tourniquet on Medici’s leg using their dog’s leash. The cuts on the man’s legs were “terrible,” Swistak said.
“Horrific,” he said. “There were cuts high on the inside of his leg and his calf was really lacerated terribly.”
“Word spread pretty quickly that something had happened,” said Tom McDonough, of South Wellfleet, who was surfing at the time. He estimated that 15 to 20 surfers were spread north to south, parallel to the beach, at the time of the attack.
As those on the beach began to understand that a man was lying on the sand injured, many ran to help.
Booth ran south toward Medici and when a woman running to the parking lot confirmed that he had been bitten, Booth said he then ran to the lot himself and made a 911 call along with others.
“I was a lunatic on the beach, yelling ‘Shark!’” he said.
A Wellfleet dispatcher said the first 911 call came in at 12:13 pm.
Rennert said there was no cellphone reception on the beach.
EMT and off-duty Wellfleet lifeguard Nina Lanctot, of Chatham, ran to her car and grabbed a tourniquet and a handful of gauze.
“I ran as fast as I could,” Lanctot said.
Off-duty lifeguards Adriana Picariello and Eric Anderson, who were also relaxing at the beach, ran down the beach with her.
“I think we saw more shark activity this summer (than other summers),” said Picariello, a teacher at Monomoy Regional High School and a Wellfleet town lifeguard for 17 seasons. “This is real now.”
Lifeguards in Wellfleet beaches are on duty from late June through Labor Day, Wellfleet Director of Community Services Suzanne Grout Thomas said.
Beachgoers formed a makeshift stretcher and began carrying the man up the beach toward the parking lot, stopping about halfway when they noticed he wasn’t breathing. They were met by Picariello, Lanctot and Anderson, who started CPR. Wellfleet paramedics arrived soon after.
“The gentleman was dead,” said retired physician John Van Aalst, who was among the first to reach the injured man and who performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Van Aalst, who lives outside Chicago and was vacationing on the Cape, estimated that the rescue response took 20 to 25 minutes, which he said was not good. A more prepared response could have been by helicopter or by beach patrol, Van Aalst said.
“It’s important for your community to know that, and to be more prepared for an emergency like this,” he said.
Witnesses said the Revere man was unconscious from initial rescue to the parking lot.
Skomal said he believed the man may have bled out in the water within minutes, and Rennert recalled seeing a wave tinted red with blood.
Medici was taken by Wellfleet ambulance to Cape Cod Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to State Police spokesman David Procopio. Wellfleet police announced his death around 1 p.m.
For many beachgoers at Newcomb Hollow on Saturday, the reality of the first Massachusetts shark fatality in nearly a century seemed inevitable. With a lot of shark activity closing swimming beaches this summer, numerous attacks on seals in shallow water witnessed by beachgoers, and an attack on a swimmer, many felt the proximity of seals, sharks and swimmers was leading to this.
“I have been nervous all summer,” said surfer Andrew Emmons.
Surfer Tom Sullivan said he moved to the Cape because he loved the Cape Cod National Seashore and surfing. His longboard stuck out of the rear of his pickup truck, and that is where it will stay for the near future, he said.
He said he’s been seeing fewer people in the water along the Atlantic side of the Cape.
“I have four grandchildren who are not allowed on the ocean side,” he said.