Deadliest shark disasters ever – from 600 mauled to death when US warship sank to Jersey Shore spree that inspired Jaws

AROUND 600 people were mauled to death by sharks after a battleship was torpedoed during World War II while four people were killed off Jersey Shore in just some of the deadliest attacks ever.

The 1916 spree off the East Coast transformed perceptions of sharks from harmless creatures to scary predators as the killings inspired the producers of Jaws.


The Sun takes a look at some of the deadliest attacks to mark Shark Week 2021.

USS Indianapolis – 1945

Around 1,195 men were onboard the USS Indianapolis in 1945, when it was torpedoed and sank, leaving Edgar Harrell and hundreds of others fighting for survival in shark-infested waters.

The vessel was sailing from Tinian Island to the Philippines after completing a secret mission delivering uranium for the Hiroshima atomic bomb, which was dropped just one week later.

The Japanese military fired six torpedoes at the Indianapolis, and two hit it directly.

Three hundred men went down with the ship, leaving another 900 bobbing in the pitch-dark waters.

Hundreds of men were attacked by the beasts, thought to be oceanic whitetip sharks, in the middle of the Philippine Sea before they were accidentally found by a friendly bomber plane.

Oceanic whitetip sharks can live in warm water and tend to grow over four meters long.

Their long white-tipped fins are highly valued as the main ingredient in shark fin soup.

Whitetips are slow-moving opportunistic hunters and tend to eat mainly squids and bony fish.

Edgar, who was just 20 at the time, told The Sun: "All we heard was men being eaten alive. Every day, every night."

It has since become known as the worst shark attack in history and inspired the character of Captain Quint in the blockbuster Jaws, who said he had survived the attack.

Jersey Shore attacks 1916

The 1916 attacks of the East Coast changed the image of a shark as humans became scared of the creatures, according to National Geographic.

Charles Vansant, 25, bled to death in a New Jersey hotel as beachgoers pulled his body from the water.

Charles Bruder, 27, was mauled to death as beachgoers stared at his legless body on the beach.

Days later, 10-year-old boy Lester Stilwell was killed in a spate of attacks.

Shark attacks were often dismissed as “fisherman’s tales” as millionaire Hermann Oelrichs was convinced that no beast had ever bitten a human.

The attacks of 1916 were used by directors when creating the movies Jaws and Sharknado.

Barry Wilson – 1952

Barry Wilson was swimming near Lover’s Point in California in 1952 before a shark attacked him from the front and back.

Five other swimmers tried to save Barry as they dragged him towards the beach.

But, Barry died in the water before they reached the shore.

Robert Pamperin – 1959

Robert Pamperin was diving for snails off the coast of California when he disappeared in June 1959.

His friend heard Pamperin scream for help and saw his friend unnaturally high in the water without his mask, TBS News reports.

Pamperin then sank to the bottom of the ocean as he was being dragged by a 22-foot shark.

US Coast Guard officials launched a search in a bid to find his remains but they reportedly found a single swim fin.

Deborah Scaling Kiley – 1982

Deborah Scaling-Kiley watched in terror as killer sharks pulled her crewmate, Mark Adams, beneath the surface and the sea turned red with blood.

The 24-year-old had been on a routine sailing trip from Maine to Florida when her boat was engulfed in a tropical storm and capsized in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Two days into their journey, the yacht capsized throwing Deborah and her friends into the ocean.

Luckily, they managed to clamber into a life raft – but within hours hundreds of killer sharks began circling and even ramming the boat in an attempt to dislodge the terrified crew members.

Over the next five days, three of the crew were eaten by sharks as Deborah and fellow survivor Brad watched on in horror.

Deborah went on to become a motivational speaker and wrote a book – Albatross: The True Story of a Woman’s Survival at Sea – in 1994.

She died in 2012 at her home in Mexico, aged 54, from unknown causes.

Pacific Coast attacks 1984

At least four shark attacks occurred within the space of two weeks off America’s Pacific Coast in 1984.

Omar Conger bled to death after being grabbed by a great white shark.

He was just standing in the water and looking out to sea when the attack happened.

Friend Chris Rehm said the beast “grabbed him from behind and while shaking him violently, pulled him under the water.”

The beast released Omar from his grip but he died in the water.

Great white sharks are renowned for their size as females can grow to 6.1meters.

Their life expectancy is thought to be 70 years and the animals are found across oceans all over the world.

The beast is thought to have no natural predators other than the killer whale.

They have an incredible sense of smell – if there was only one drop of blood in 100 liters of water, a great white would smell it.

The great white shark is one of only a few sharks known to regularly lift its head above the sea surface to gaze at other objects such as prey.

Randall Fry – 2004

Crews found Randall Fry’s severed head and body after he was attacked by a shark.

Randall was diving with his friend Cliff Zimmermann off the coast of California in 2004, The SFGate reports.

Zimmermann said he heard a “whooshing” sound as he realized his friend had disappeared.

Waters quickly turned red as he saw a shark fin surfacing beneath the water.

Zimmermann said: "He (Fry) said 'I think a shark will get me sometime'. It's quite common banter among abalone divers."

Jana Lutteropp – 2013

German tourist Jana Lutteropp died in August 2013 – a week after a shark had bitten her.

The 20-year-old, who was holidaying in Hawaii, was snorkeling up to 50 yards of Maui when the incident happened, according to CNN.

A high school teacher from California recalled the moment he heard Jana scream as he jumped into the water.

It's not known what shark bit Jana but it's presumed that it was a tiger shark.

Tiger sharks tend to be found in Pacific waters as they prefer tropical and temperate climates.

Its prey ranges from birds and turtles to dolphins and sea snakes.

Tiger sharks are near-threatened species due to finning and fishing by humans.

Fatal attacks by tiger sharks are said to be extremely rare.

Margaret Cruse – 2015

Margaret Cruse, 65, was killed in an apparent shark attack off the coast of Maui.

She was found floating face down in the water in April 2015, NBC reports.

Margaret was snorkeling with two others but became separated before she was attacked.

Before the fatal incident, three deadly attacks had occurred in Hawaiian waters since 1995.

Arthur Medici – 2018

Arthur Medici was the first victim of a shark attack in Massachusetts in more than 80 years.

He was attacked off Newcomb Hollow Beach in September 2018, CBS reports.

Witness Joe Booth said he saw Medici aggressively kick something behind him and a flicker of the beast's tail from the water

He said: "It was like right out of the movie Jaws. Turned into Amity Island real quick."

Julie Dimperio Holowach – 2020

Julie Dimperio Holowach was fatally killed when attacked by a great white shark in Maine.

She was swimming with her daughter just 20 yards from the shore off Harpswell Bailey Island when she was attacked, according to NECN.

Major Rob Beal, of Maine Marine Patrol, said: "It is a tragic but also an isolated incident that we're kind of working our way through that the state's never seen."

Julie's daughter was not injured following the incident.

Great white sightings are reportedly up in the US but the odds of being killed by a shark in the States are 3,748,061 to one.

Shark Week chronicles the lives of one of the ocean’s apex predators and has been airing on Discovery Channel for over three decades.

It originally premiered on July 17, 1988, and became an instant success for the network.

In 2018, Shark Week had 34.9million viewers and Discovery Channel took the number one network spot for prime time during the annual event.


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