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Police: Pack Of 18-Foot Sharks Comes Dangerously Close To Long Island Shore

WEST HAMPTON DUNES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A Long Island beach remained closed to swimmers Wednesday following shark sightings off the coast.

A section of West Hampton Dunes was originally closed Tuesday afternoon after several sharks were spotted near the shore. Authorities were forced to keep the area closed until further notice after the sharks were spotted again Wednesday.

Authorities are also investigating the possibility of a connection between the sharks and a dead seal found on the beach.

West Hampton Dunes police Sgt. Tim Turner said reports of sharks in the water came in around 3 p.m. Tuesday. There were about 50 people on the beach at the time.

"It took me about three years to go swimming after seeing 'Jaws.' This could be another 30 years before I go back in," beachgoer Steve Schachner told CBS 2's Katie Fehlinger.

The dorsal fins of six to eight sharks floating on the water's surface at Cupsogue Beach brought mixed reaction.

"It's awesome because they're so close to the beach, but I'm pretty happy I wasn't in the water at that time," beachgoer Arnold Perlman said.

"It's something to see, definitely! It's pretty exciting!" added Lisa Scholl.

Turner said there were several sharks within 15 feet of the shore line. They looked to be about 18 feet long. Some onlookers thought they were thresher sharks, but officials have yet to determine the breed.

"It is usual to see those types of sharks this time of year because the warmer weather brings in plankton. It's a little closer to the shoreline and the big fish come in and swallow it," West Hampton Dunes Mayor Gray Vegliante said.

Vegliante said while the county doesn't know their breed, these sharks were definitely not acting like predators.

"You'll see them coming in, turning the water white, thrashing around, throwing fish up, moving the bay fish right onto the beach," Vegliante said.

shark sign
Sign posted at Cupsogue Beach, a public beach in Suffolk County in the Village of Westhampton Dunes (credit: Kathleen Maloney/1010 WINS)

Turner said it's not unusual to see sharks, but not so many at one time.

Local resident Richard Anderson said you have to keep this scare in perspective.

"More people are killed crossing the streets, I suspect, than are killed with sharks," Anderson told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.

He said the ocean is where sharks live, it's their home, and you have to expect to see them every now and then.

The beach will remain closed for swimming until further notice.

Westhampton Beach Dead Seal
A dead seal is seen on the beach - Westhampton, NY - Jun 1, 2011 (credit: Mike Xirinachs / WCBS 880)

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(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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