Watch CBS News

Shark attacks and seriously injures British tourist in the Caribbean as friends "fight off" the predator

Scared of a shark attack? Here's what experts want you to know. 03:03

A shark attacked a British tourist on Friday in the southeastern Caribbean, prompting the government of Trinidad & Tobago to close seven beaches and a marine park. The man was hospitalized in an intensive care unit following the attack, officials said.

The closure included beaches along the northwestern coast of the island of Tobago. The attack occurred at Turtle Beach along Great Courland Bay.

The BBC identified the victim as Peter Smith, 64, who was on the Caribbean island with wife Jo and friends when he was attacked. His wife said he suffered damage to his left arm and leg, puncture wounds to the abdomen and injuries to his right hand.

This weekend, she said her husband "is aware of what is happening and is able to communicate a little, although he is still under strong medication," according to the BBC.

Officials said the incident involved a bull shark estimated to be eight to 10 fet long, the BBC reported.

The government said in a statement that shark sightings were reported in the Grafton area and the Buccoo Reef Marine Park. Officials said the closures will allow the Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries to investigate the incident and "neutralize the shark threat, if possible."

Eyewitness Orion Jakerov, a water sports manager at the nearby Starfish resort, said other people in the water were "physically trying to fight off the shark."

"I don't think they saw it. They were about waist height in the water so they weren't out of their depth," he told the local broadcaster TTT Live. "I think their backs were turned and they were just kind of lounging around. Nobody saw the shark coming."

Shark attacks are rare. Last year, there were 69 unprovoked attacks and 22 provoked bites worldwide, along with 14 fatalities, according to the Florida-based International Shark Attack File.

The incident in Tobago comes after attacks on American tourists in recent months in the Caribbean. In January, a young boy from Maryland was seriously injured when he was bitten by a shark at a resort in the Bahamas.

In December, a Boston woman was killed in a shark attack in the Bahamas. Lauren Erickson Van Wart, 44, was paddleboarding with a family member when she was attacked. She was declared dead at the scene by emergency responders. 

Last May, an American woman visiting Turks and Caicos was hospitalized in serious condition after being attacked by a shark while snorkeling. The 22-year-old woman from Connecticut, who was was reportedly on vacation celebrating her graduation from Yale, lost her foot in the attack.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.