The Deadly Outer Banks Labor Day Shark Attack

Various Sharks Swimming in Ocean Water

A shark attack on Labor Day, September 3, 2001 brought international attention to the beaches of Hatteras Island, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. On that tragic day, vacationers Sergei Zaloukaev, 28, and his girlfriend Natalia Slobodskaya, both Russian emigrants living in Oakton, Virginia were wading in the ocean near the Askins Creek area of South Avon, North Carolina.

Suddenly, at 6 pm, the two were attacked by a shark in waist-deep water only 25 feet from shore, according to friends vacationing with the couple.

Natalia later told investigators the shark attacked them multiple times during the two minutes they struggled to make their way back to shore. During the attacks, the shark bit into Sergei’s left leg, ripping flesh and severing the leg just below the knee.

Natalia’s first wound came as she tried to push the shark away from them with her arms. The shark bit into her left wrist and hand, severing her middle finger. As the couple fought to reach the safety of the shore, the shark attacked them from behind and swam between Natalia’s legs.

Natalia later recounted the sensation of the shark as it brushed against her during the attack.

"It was rough, it was disgusting, you know, the skin of a beast."

As they continued their struggle through the surf toward shore, the shark kept attacking. “It was all around us," Natalia later told reporters. The shark grabbed Natalia’s left hip with its jaws. The big shark’s teeth sank deep into her flesh, reaching into the bone and tearing out a 12-inch section of her left buttock. As she continued her flight toward shore, the shark’s jaws ripped her flesh along the leg, finally tearing her left foot off.

After the couple reached shore, Sergei bled to death on the beach waiting for the emergency squad to arrive. An autopsy would later reveal his death was caused by massive blood loss from a torn artery in his leg.

Natalia was airlifted to a hospital in Norfolk Virginia. She had lost a finger, her left foot and most of her left buttock to the attacking shark. She had months of surgeries and rehabilitation in her future.

Officials on the Outer Banks were unsure how many sharks were involved in the attack and no shark teeth were found in the victims, making identification of the type of shark involved difficult if not impossible.

Officials with the National Park Service reported that Hammerhead, Tiger, Reef, Blue, and Bull Sharks were frequent visitors to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches and may have been responsible for the attack. In addition, Great White Sharks have been spotted in the area.

Most shark experts believe a hungry Bull Shark was probably responsible for the attack that day on Hatteras Island. Only two days before the Labor Day attack, ten-year-old David Peltier was attacked and killed by a Bull Shark about 100-miles north of Avon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In that attack the shark ripped a 17-inch gash in Peltier’s left thigh and did not release the boy until the boy’s father repeatedly hit the shark on its face and head.

After the shark released Peltier, the father carried his son to shore however, the bite had severed an artery and the young boy died within a few hours of the attack due to loss of blood.

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