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Vacationing N.Y. FF-EMT helps rescue teen from Fla. shark attack

Niagara Falls Firefighter-EMT Josh Carey said there was “massive amounts of blood in the water”

Beach goers on Lido Beach in Sarasota, FL

Summer Crowd on Lido Beach, Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida

Ruth Peterkin/Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Rick Pfeiffer
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, N.Y.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Niagara Falls Firefighter Josh Carey and his girlfriend were wrapping up a visit to a Florida beach a week ago Friday when people suddenly began to scream and the gulf waters lapping up to the sand turned red.

“It was our first day at the beach, we’d been there about two or three hours,” Carey said. “There were hundreds of people there, on the beach and in the water. And as we were packing up our stuff, I heard these screams and saw people running away from the shoreline.”

Carey said there was also “massive amounts of blood in the water.”

About 20 to 30 feet from the edge of the water, Carey began running toward the shore, convinced that something horrible had happened.

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“The only thing I could think of, with all that blood, was maybe it was a shark attack,” he said.

Carey was right.

It was one of two separate shark attacks, just 90 minutes and four miles apart, along a stretch of the Gulf shore coastline in Walton County, Florida, near Panama City. The attack took place at the Sandy Shores Court area of Seacrest Beach.

Two girls, 15- and 17-years-old, had been standing in waist-deep water with a group of friends when the shark attacked.

Authorities said they have not yet determined the breed of shark involved in the two attacks or if the same shark is responsible for both incidents.

Carey said as he reached the shoreline, people were pulling the more seriously injured 15-year-old victim out of the water. The Falls firefighter, who is also a certified EMT, said the group of rescuers included “a couple of nurses and a couple of doctors and another EMT.”

He said he asked “someone behind me” if they had rope or anything that could be used for a tourniquet. Carey said the young girl had suffered catastrophic injuries to her hand from her pelvis to her knee on one side of her body and was losing a large amount of blood.

“A lady brought me a strap from a (beverage) cooler and I was able to begin tying it to the wound to stem the bleeding,” Carey said.

As he and the other rescuers continued to apply pressure to the girl’s wounds, people on the beach rushed forward with other items to try to help stop the bleeding.

“Someone gave me like a zip cord that you could tie down,” Carey said.

As Carey and others struggled to help the young girl, he said she remained “conscious and aware” and spoke with her rescuers. The other attack victim, who was less seriously injured, was also treated by people on the beach.

After what Carey said, “seemed like a long time, but was probably only five or 10 minutes”, local firefighters and EMTs arrived and were able to get the victim into an ambulance and take her to a nearby hospital.

The quick response by Carey and the others on the beach is credited with saving the young girl’s life.

“(Doctors) had to amputate her hand and leg, but she made it. She’s alive,” Carey said.

The two teenage victims were identified by Florida authorities as tourists from Alabama.

“I don’t think it’s a natural instinct (to run toward a shark attack), but that’s how we’re trained,” Falls Fire Captain Jason Cafarella, who commands Carey’s platoon, said. “Our training is the thing, but Josh is a very good firefighter. It takes a special presence to be calm and stay focused during something like that.”

Carey said he’s learned that as a firefighter “even when your off-duty, you’re still on-duty.” Falls Fire Chief Gary Pochatko said he wasn’t surprised that one of his firefighters jumped in to help.

“It makes you proud,” the fire chief said. “But I’m not surprised.”

(c)2024 the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (Lockport, N.Y.)