The shark attack caused severe wounds to the man's torso and legs

By Caitlin Keating
August 16, 2018 11:48 AM
Credit: William J Kole/AP/Shutterstock

A 61-year-old man was attacked by a shark off Cape Cod on Wednesday and was airlifted to a nearby hospital with severe wounds to his legs and torso, according to reports.

The attack at Long Nook Beach in Truro, Massachusetts, happened around 4 p.m., Gary Sharpless, an assistant harbormaster in Truro, Massachusetts, told the Associated Press.

WCVB reported that the Cape Cod National Seashore identified the man as William Lytton, from Scarsdale, New York.

Truro fire chief Timothy Collins spoke with the AP, saying that the victim was “conscious and talking” and that “we’re hoping for the best.”

Witnesses told the Cape Cod Times that they saw a man swimming south and “seemingly too far out” from the beach. After the attack, bystanders saw him lying on the beach with a large gash on his leg and mangled hands.

According to the newspaper, the last shark attack off of Cape Cod was also in Truro in 2012, when a man from Colorado was bitten off of Ballston Beach.

Leslie Reynolds, the Cape Cod National Seashore chief ranger, confirmed Wednesday’s attack was from a shark and that Dr. Gregory Skomal, chief shark scientist for the state Division of Marine Fisheries, is now confirming what type of shark it was.

Larry Cahoon, professor of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, previously spoke with PEOPLE about what to do if you come face-to-face with a shark.

“People say to swim slowly back to shore, but what is that going to do? Swim to shore as fast as you can. A shark that means to eat you will keep coming,” he said. “You need to call for help. People who survive all but the least damaging shark attacks got immediate help from others.”

He also suggested not aiming for the nose if the shark comes towards you, but instead go for their eyes and gills, which are a “shark’s most sensitive area.”

But the best thing you can do is “just focus on getting back to land.”

He added: “A 10-foot bull shark will weigh close to 500 pounds and is essentially all muscle. What chance would anyone have?”