Cape Cod shark attacks show need for better cell service

911 calls from fatal shark attack in Wellfleet released

BOSTON — Two shark attacks on Cape Cod this summer are underscoring the need for better cellphone service at some of the region's most secluded beaches.

Local officials say the issue is among their top priorities as they prepare to gather later this week in the aftermath of the attacks, including one Saturday that was Massachusetts' first fatal shark attack in more than 80 years.

Beachgoers reported having trouble calling 911.

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"Hi I can’t hear you," can be heard at the beginning of one 911 call during the fatal Wellfleet shark attack, followed by, "Can you hear me now?"

Several people on Newcomb Hollow Beach tried to reach 911 during the deadly incident, with poor to no cell service slowing their calls for help as they frantically searched for better signal.

“Hi I want to report a shark bite at Newcomb Hollow Beach," one caller said. “Yeah, I had to run up to the parking lot, and actually, the person is injured.”

Other callers signaled how serious the situation was during the calls, evidently shaken by the incident.

“I watched the whole thing happen," one caller said. "I didn’t know how bad it was. It was a hell of a hit man. I saw the whole thing happen.”

Dispatchers got enough calls to know someone was attacked, and sent rescue workers immediately.

“I have a report of a male shark bite, and they‘re carrying the party up to the parking lot at Newcomb Hollow," one call said. "I have an unconscious male, requesting MedFlight if available."

Brian Carlstrom, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore, says officials will look at options like getting phone companies to erect more towers to boost service.

Truro Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer says her community is looking to install emergency call boxes at its beaches by next summer.

Eastham Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe says other communities are considering putting in pay phones.