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Article updated at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2
By Eric Heinz
Update, from the city of San Clemente: “The city of San Clemente has reopened its beaches. The city’s Marine Safety Division communicated with other public safety agencies, received reports from lifeguards who patrolled the beaches and reviewed drone footage, none of which reported any shark sightings. Therefore, the city elected to reopen its beaches at 12:30 p.m. today, May 2. The city will post advisory signs of recent shark sightings. This fits within policy guidelines as applied to both the shark attack and the shark sightings reported by the Orange County Fire Authority last night. The city has been informed that the State beaches are still closed, although they are not enforcing the closure.”
The city of San Clemente today had expected to reopen the beach waters it patrols, but on Monday evening, May 1, an Orange County Fire Authority helicopter spotted a pack of nine great white sharks just outside the surf line at Capistrano Beach, a press release from the city on Tuesday stated.
“In response to a shark attack near San Onofre State Beach on Saturday, the city of San Clemente’s Marine Safety Division enforced a closure of all San Clemente (city) beaches,” the release stated “The State Lifeguards enforced a beach closure from Trail 6 (at San Onofre) to San Clemente’s public beaches.”
San Onofre beach waters are closed until Wednesday morning, May 3, for another evaluation of shark presence and behavior, park officials said.
The beaches in San Clemente were initially closed on Sunday as a precautionary measure due to the attack on Leeanne Ericson as she was swimming at Churches beach at San Onofre State Park on Saturday. Ericson is currently at a hospital in a La Jolla hospital recovering from severe bite injuries to her leg.
Another shark was sighted by a local fisherman at San Clemente Pier late Sunday afternoon, the press release stated. The fisherman said the shark was estimated at 11 feet long.
“There was also a report by state lifeguards of aggressive shark behavior at Upper Trestles on Sunday in which a shark chased surfers out of the water,” the release stated.
“Based on the distance of those sharks to San Clemente and their length, we have decided to keep the city’s beaches closed and then reevaluate the closure mid-morning using our shark policy as our guide,” City Manager James Makshanoff said in the release.
People can still visit the beaches land, but the waters are off limits at this time.
The release stated city lifeguards follow a county-wide protocol and respond by closing the beaches if there is a perceived danger to the public. This policy is an agreement with all county lifeguard chiefs and state lifeguards.
“The city asks that the public be mindful of the signage posted on the beach and stay out of the water,” the release stated.
Lifeguards are on duty and red flag warnings notifying the public of hazardous conditions are visible along the beaches.
Any other threat should be reported to lifeguards at the Marine Safety Headquarters building just north of the Pier or to the Pier lifeguard tower, which is manned seven days a week. Marine Safety can be reached at 949.361.8219 and Sheriff’s Dispatch at 949.770.6011 or 911 for emergencies.
Tips from the city to help reduce your risk of sharks:
- Do not swim too far from shore
- Stay in groups, as sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual
- Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight when sharks are most active
- Don’t go in the water if bleeding from a wound, as sharks have an acute sense of smell
- Leave the shiny jewelry at home, as the reflected light resembles fish scales
- Avoid brightly colored swimwear, as sharks see contrast particularly well
Editor’s note: This is a developing story. The San Clemente Times will provide more information when it becomes available.