Suffolk County officials and beachgoers discuss the string of shark sightings in Long Island waters, just as a Smith Point County Park lifeguard returns to work after being bitten by a shark on Fourth of July weekend. Steve Langford reports. Credit: Kendall Rodrigues, Howard Schnapp, John Roca

Multiple shark sightings off Tobay Beach by lifeguards and police Thursday afternoon forced the beach to close at least through Friday morning, Oyster Bay Town officials said.

About 1:20 p.m., lifeguards spotted a shark swimming about 30 yards from shore and immediately cleared the water and closed the beach to swimming, according to Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino. Nassau County police responded and dispatched its aviation bureau, Saladino said.

The shark sightings Thursday were the latest in a string of reports of the predators off Long Island beaches so far this month. Multiple people have been bitten.

One of the victims, lifeguard Zach Gallo, returned to the stand at Smith Point County Park in Shirley on Thursday, no worse for the wear just 11 days after being attacked by a shark.

Gallo, 33, of Bayport, felt a bit of apprehension as he pulled up for work, but that washed away as soon as he returned to the ocean, he said.

“Once I was in the water, I was just happy to be back,” Gallo said during a news conference at the beach Thursday. “My fellow guards and I were yelling, ‘Who’s ready for round two?’ ”

Gallo suffered injuries to his hand and chest during a lifeguard training drill July 3. It was the second of what is now four reported shark-related attacks off Long Island this month.

He stressed the importance of only swimming in areas under lifeguard supervision and highlighted the quick work of his co-workers in getting him immediate medical attention.

“I can’t thank my colleagues enough for coming to help me when I needed it at one of the most vulnerable times in my life,” he said.

During the news conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone noted that shark attacks at the county beach were “unprecedented” in the past, but might happen more frequently in the future.

“Prior to July 3 we had not had a recorded shark bite at this facility since it opened, during beach hours, back in 1959,” Bellone said. “Now within the span of 10 days we’ve seen two shark bites here, as well as another yesterday [in Fire Island.]"

Meanwhile, swimming at Robert Moses State Park beaches resumed following a shark sighting earlier Thursday morning.

A surfer who was also an off-duty lifeguard said he spotted a shark around 8 a.m., about an hour before lifeguards are on-duty, according to George Gorman, Long Island regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Lifeguards surveyed the area with a drone and did not see sharks, but they did spot nine stingrays, Gorman said.

The parks department closed Fields 2, 3 and 4 as a precaution, but the beaches reopened about 9:30 a.m., he said. Gorman said more stingrays had been spotted in recent years, along with sharks, dolphins and other marine animals.

“It's not just sharks that are coming closer to shore,” he said. “It’s all sorts of marine life.”

At least four people have reportedly been attacked by a shark this month, with two incidents at Smith Point County Park in Shirley and two off Fire Island.

Experts told Newsday last week that the recent attacks continued what was described as unprecedented escalation for an area that records show had averaged about one attack per decade for the past century.

Swimming at Robert Moses State Park beaches resumed following a...

Swimming at Robert Moses State Park beaches resumed following a shark sighting. Thursday morning. Credit: John Roca

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