WELLFLETE, Massachusetts — A man boogie boarding off a Cape Cod beach was attacked by a shark on Saturday and died later at a hospital, becoming the state's first shark attack fatality in more than 80 years.
Arthur Medici, 26, of Revere, succumbed to his injuries following the attack in the waters off Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet just after noon, Wellfleet Police Lt. Michael Hurley said.
Police say Medici was attacked while at the beach with his family. Witnesses at the scene told officers that Medici and another male were in the water about 30 yards off the beach boogie boarding when the attack occurred. They say Medici was wearing a wetsuit and flippers.
Joe Booth, a local fisherman and surfer, said he was on shore when he saw Medici and his friend boogie boarding when the attack happened.
He said he saw Medici aggressively kick something behind him and a flicker of a tail from the water. He realized what was happening when the friend came ashore dragging his injured friend.
"All of a sudden somebody yelled 'shark, shark!' and we noticed a big crowd at the end of the beach," Tony Sherwell said.
Booth said, "I was that guy on the beach screaming, 'Shark! Shark!' It was like right out of that movie 'Jaws.' This has turned into Amity Island real quick out here.''
Julian Swistak said people started running down the beach, wrapping Medici's legs in their towels.
"There was a lot of blood," Rich Littauer said. "A lot of blood."
Booth said others on the beach attempted to make a tourniquet using a boogie board cord while others frantically called 911.
CPR was in progress on the beach when emergency personnel responded, at which time they took over.
A group of people, including first responders, carried Medici down the beach to the parking lot, giving him chest compressions on the way to the ambulance.
Hayley Williamson, a Cape Cod resident and former lifeguard who was on the beach at the time, was in disbelief after Medici was rushed in an ambulance.
"We've been surfing all morning right here and they were just further down,'' she said of the two boogie boarders. "Right spot, wrong time, I guess.''
Life-saving measures were attempted on the beach before Medici was taken to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, where he was pronounced dead, State Police spokesman David Procopio said. The beach has been closed to swimming.
The town of Wellfleet issued a statement Saturday night, saying they are "heartbroken by this tragedy," and they send their sympathies to Medici's family and friends.
"We share the grief and pain you feel," Select Board Chair Janet Reinhart and Town Administrator Dan Hoort said in the statement. "We are grateful to the family, friends, beach staff, public and first responders who worked so valiantly to save his life. Everyone who lives in and visits Wellfleet is part of the Wellfleet community. Today we lost a member of our community and we grieve his passing."
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy also offered their condolences to Medici's family on Twitter.
The attack is the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936, and the second shark attack this season.
A 61-year-old New York man was severely injured Aug. 15 after fighting off a shark off Truro, about 4 miles north of Saturday's attack. He's currently recovering in a Boston hospital.
There were 53 unprovoked shark attacks in the U.S. in 2017, but none were fatal, according to the International Shark Attack File. On average, there are only six deaths around the world each year from unprovoked shark attacks.
"Today is just keeping everyone out of water,'' Hurley said. "There'll be a determination later about what the town wants to do with the beaches going forward.''
Beachgoers said the Wellfleet beach is popular with surfers, and with sunny skies and warm temperatures Saturday it was busy, even though the summer season was over and lifeguards were no longer on watch following Labor Day.
"As you can see, there is signage that is posted here at the beach just advising people that there are sharks in the water and the potential of them being out there," Lt. Hurley said.
"It's just crazy," Swistak said. "I come to this beach all the time so it's scary and a little sad."
There have been frequent shark sightings this summer along the outer Cape, often leading to beach closings. The National Park Service, which manages many of the picturesque beaches where white sharks tend to congregate, said it closed beaches for at least an hour about 25 times this year, more than double the annual average.
A Cape Cod politician said officials who did not more aggressive action against sharks bore some responsibility for the fatal attack. Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty said he had warned something like this could happen and urged measures to reduce the number of white sharks.
"It is my personal belief that the responsibility for this horrible shark attack rests squarely upon the shoulders of the aforementioned officials for their utter lack of attention and inaction regarding the growing shark problem on Cape Cod of the last few years,'' he said.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Cape and Island District Attorney's Office and Massachusetts State Police.
The state's last shark attack fatality was on July 25, 1936, when 16-year-old Joseph Troy Jr. was bitten in waters off Mattapoisett.
Troy, of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, was visiting an uncle and was swimming about 50 feet offshore when the shark attacked.