Family of Rockaway Beach shark attack victim breaks silence

The family of the 65-year-old Queens woman who lost “20 pounds of flesh” in a gruesome shark attack off Rockaway Beach said Wednesday they were “grateful to be alive” after the harrowing encounter.

“Our mother is grateful to be alive … and we are all grateful to the lifeguards, EMTs and team at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center,” a representative told The Post on behalf of the family of Tatyana Koltunyuk, who remained hospitalized after the attack on Monday evening.

“We are deeply touched by the tremendous support we have received, but for now we ask everyone to respect our privacy while we focus all our energies on helping her recover.”

Koltunyuk “tapped in place and relaxed” just about 10 feet offshore near Beach 59th Street just before 6 p.m. Monday when she started screaming for help, chief lifeguard Jose Diaz told The Post.

“We saw that she was bitten [on the leg]. A lot of blood came out, so they put a tourniquet on her with the buoy that has a rope on it and they tied it up so she wouldn’t bleed to death,” the 68-year-old said of how his colleagues saved Koltunyuk’s life.

Tatyana Koltunyuk is treated by rescue workers after being bitten by a shark.
Lifeguards saved Koltunyuk’s life with a makeshift tourniquet before the ambulance arrived.
NY Post

Photos showed the mother-of-one child looking dazed and pale as first responders provided assistance on the beach and in an ambulance en route to Jamaica Hospital.

Medical staff later said Koltunyuk was in stable but critical condition.

“[It’s] definitely a shark bite,” said Dr. Gavin Naylor, program director for the Florida Program for Shark Research, told The Post after seeing a picture of the victim’s wound.

Beach staff set up "Swimming prohibited" Flags after the attack on Monday evening.
Beach staff raised flags that read “no swimming” following Monday night’s attack.
Gabriella Bass

“Looks like it was a pretty clean single bite with some force. You can see the space between the teeth,” he continued, noting that he would need to see the other side of the woman’s leg “to narrow down the species.”

Diaz, who has been a lifeguard for over 50 years, said he had never seen anything quite like Koltunyuk, who lifeguards knew was a regular beach visitor.

“She lost a lot of blood. The artery came right out. You could see the bones and everything. It was crazy,” he recalled.

Tatyana Koltunyuk.
Tatyana Koltunyuk, 65, is originally from Ukraine.
Facebook/Tatyana Koltunyuk

“We go swimming with the lifeguards and we see sharks, but they don’t really hurt us. This is the first time this has happened. It is strange. Everyone is now afraid to go into the water. I don’t blame them.”

The popular Queens beach was closed Tuesday but reopened Wednesday, while the NYPD and FDNY said they were scanning the water daily for shark activity using drones and other methods.

The attack is believed to be the first in the region since 1953.

Koltunyuk's injury.
Koltunyuk is believed to have lost 20 pounds of flesh in the attack.
NY Post

Koltunyuk from Astoria is originally from Odessa, Ukraine, according to her Facebook profile.

Their daughter Dasha Koltunyuk is a renowned pianist who graduated from Princeton University. according to their website.

Dasha is married to composer and pianist Gregg Kallor, whose PR team Unison Media is representing the family following Monday’s incident.

She declined to comment Tuesday outside the hospital where her mother is recovering.


JACLYN DIAZ is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. JACLYN DIAZ joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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