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Two Long Island beaches reopened Monday morning for the busy Fourth of July holiday after officials were forced to close them to swimmers the day before when a shark attacked a lifeguard.
Smith Point and Cupsogue beaches in Suffolk County reopened for swimming at 10 a.m. after lifeguards gave the all-clear.
The guards started work an hour early to scan the water for signs of sharks — using paddle boards to patrol the water and a remote-controlled drone to inspect the area from above, according to local reports.
A day earlier, lifeguard Zack Gallo, 33, was bitten by a shark in the waters off Smith Point Beach during a training session.
Gallo was bitten in the chest and right hand during the attack, but was able to fight off the 5-foot-long fish with his bare hands.
Ironically, he was playing the role of a victim in a drowning reenactment during a lifeguard training session when he was bit.
Gallo told the Post Monday that he felt a “sharp pain and pressure” in his hand as he was treading in chin-deep water and realized that something had clamped onto it.
“I started hammer punching down and I know I connected with the shark three times,” Gallo said. “On the third time, the whole shark flipped the other way and saw out to sea.”
He swam to shore and warned the other guards of the shark’s presence.
Miraculously, the 10-year veteran guard only needed a couple of stitches in his hand and a bandage on his chest.
“I’m grateful that it was a minor injury,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse, and I’m just very grateful that I walked out of the water on my own.”
Gallo said he is eager to get back in the water despite the shark attack.
“We are visitors in their world. This was just a curious animal. I have to be out of work for 10 days, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the water,” he said.
County officials called the attack on Sunday “unprecedented” and Gallo said he hopes the attack doesn’t scare others from swimming.
Long Island residents and visitors didn’t let the shark attack scare them from celebrating Independence Day and the beautiful weather at the beach.
Both the regular and spill-over parking lots at Cupsogue beach reached capacity by 10:45 a.m. — less than an hour after opening, according to Suffolk County Parks.