Labor Day shark attack survivor hanging on
AVON, North Carolina (CNN) -- Investigators were still trying to determine Tuesday what kind of shark killed a man and critically injured his girlfriend in the waters near Cape Hatteras on North Carolina's Outer Banks the night before.
Monday evening's incident was the second deadly shark attack over the Labor Day weekend and came about 100 miles from the earlier incident.
Authorities are not sure whether more than one shark was involved in Monday's attack.
"That calls for a lot of speculation," said David Griffin, director of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. "We're not even sure what species the shark was."
An autopsy Tuesday showed Sergei Zaloukaev, 27, was bitten at least three times, injuries so severe that he died from massive blood loss soon after he and his girlfriend were attacked.
The autopsy was inconclusive on whether he was bitten by one shark or more. One bite stretched 10.5 inches on the back of his right thigh from just below his knee to his buttock, according to medical examiner Paul Spence, and his right foot was completely severed.
Natalia Slobodskaya, 23, who lost her left foot and parts of her left buttock and thigh in the attack, was in stable but critical condition Tuesday in a Norfolk, Virginia, hospital. She is a Russian national living in northern Virginia, as was Zaloukaev.
Two days earlier, 10-year-old David Peltier was attacked in shallow water off Virginia Beach, Virginia, about 100 miles to the north.
His father beat the shark off the boy, but the youngster bled to death after the shark severed his femoral artery in his left leg.
The back-to-back attacks and their ferocity stunned authorities, who stressed that shark attacks are rare.
"This is a serious occurrence. I'm not trying to down play that, but we're also trying to give you a perspective on the frequency of these activities," Griffin said. "Sharks do frequent those areas."
Mary Doll of the National Park Service said the medical examiner had not found any teeth in the injuries, "which will make the identification a little more difficult."
Bull sharks, hammerheads, tiger sharks, reef sharks and blue sharks frequent the area "looking for food," Griffin said.
Griffin said that movement -- including waves crashing, swimming, jumping and thrashing about in the water -- stimulates the "feeding response" in sharks
To date, there have been 52 shark attacks worldwide -- including the three over the weekend -- reported to the International Shark Attack File, based at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Of those, 41 have been in the United States, including 29 in Florida.
There were 79 such incidents last year, according to the center's Web site, and the annual average during the 1990s was 54.
Doctors at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia said Slobonskaya was "not completely conscious" after being heavily sedated to alleviate the pain from her injuries.
"She just has a large dished-out area on her hip and buttocks that is about 12 inches in diameter," said Dr. Jeffrey Riblet, a trauma surgeon at the hospital.
He said the bites on her left side had gone "to the bone" and could affect her sciatic nerve, which controls motion in the leg.
Riblet said she was placed on a ventilator because of the heavy sedation and he expects her to be in the hospital for "weeks to a month range."
The couple was with five friends from the Washington area on holiday in the Outer Banks. The two were swimming together near a sandbar about 20 feet from shore when they were attacked around 6 p.m., authorities said.
National Park Service pilots spotted several sharks Tuesday just south of the area where the attack took place.
Doll said park officials would confer with state and federal biologists to determine whether it was necessary to close the beaches, which have remained open since Monday's attack.
The two deaths were the only ones caused by shark bites reported in the United States so far this year and the second and third worldwide. The other was in Brazil.
Ten deadly shark attacks were reported worldwide in 2000.
Media attention on shark attacks this summer began July 6 when an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was attacked at a beach on the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.
Jessie Arbogast, whose right arm had to be reattached after the attack, is still recovering and remains in a light coma.
Last month, a New York man vacationing in the Bahamas lost part of his left leg after a shark attack.
There were several less serious shark attacks on surfers on the Florida east coast in August.
-- CNN correspondent Patty Davis contributed to this report.
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