GW graduate student Natalia Slobodskaya was critically injured in a shark attack off the coast of North Carolina Monday. Her fiance, Sergei Zaloukaev, 27, was also attacked and died shortly after the incident of massive blood loss.
Slobonskaya, a 23-year-old Russian national, was treated in the trauma unit at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia and is in critical but stable condition, according to the National Park Service.
Slobonskaya’s left foot was bitten off at the ankle, and the middle finger on her left hand was also bitten off. She suffered from severe lacerations on her left side and buttocks, said Mary Doll, spokeswoman for the National Park Service at Cape Hatteras Seashore, N.C.
The couple was attacked while swimming in chest-deep water near a sandbar off the Outer Banks in Avon, N.C. at about 6 p.m.
No one on the beach saw a shark, Doll said, but they heard screaming and saw the couple flailing in the water. The type of shark could not be determined from the wounds, Doll said.
Beach-goers brought both Slobodskaya and Zaloukaev to shore, immediately performed CPR on Zaloukaev and called 911, Doll said. But Zaloukaev wounds were too severe, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at a medical center in Avon.
Sentera Health Care spokeswoman Ann Keffer said Slobodskaya underwent surgery Monday, where surgeons repaired torn blood vessels. She underwent more surgery Tuesday in which surgeons flushed out, or cleaned, the wounds, Keffer said.
Slobodskaya is stabilized and has been taken off of ventilators, Keffer said. Doctors are unsure if she will have function of her left leg because the shark bit to the bone and injured the sciatic nerve, which controls leg movement, Keffer said. She could be in the hospital for several weeks or up to a month.
The Sentera Health Foundation added a link on its Web site, (sentera.com) where people can e-mail and make donations to Slobodskaya’s family, Keffer said.
Slobonskaya received a bachelor’s degree from GW in international affairs from the Elliott School in January 2000, said GW spokesman Eric Solomon. She is currently registered as a student working toward a doctoral degree, Solomon said. At GW, she was also listed as Natalya Baulina.
The University had not issued an official response to Slobonskaya’s situation at print time. No one from the University has talked to her or her family yet because her phone number is not on file, Solomon said.
Doll said sharks constantly swim within the Cape Hatteras shore area.
“It’s where they live and feed . but attacks are not normal,” she said. The last shark attack in North Carolina was in 1957.
“It’s a safe area to swim with the understanding that when you go into any wilderness-type area there are risks,” Doll said.
The attack came only two days after a shark killed a 10-year-old boy, David Peltiera, 135 miles away on the southern end of Virginia Beach.
Peltiera was attacked Saturday while surfing, according to The Washington Post. Despite attempts by his father to beat back the shark, Peltiera lost too much blood from a severed artery to survive, according to The Post.
There have been three fatalities resulting from shark attacks this year, according to The Post. The only other fatality occurred in Brazil.
-Katie Warchut contributed to this report.