PORTSMOUTH, R.I. -- A fun-filled day of swimming and fishing for one local group of friends and family turned into a nightmare that most
only witness in the movies.
Fall River residents Dennis Vasconcellos, Rachel Carney, Joey Mailloux, Tracy Roberts, a young child and another woman were at Teddy's Beach in the
Island Park section of Portsmouth Tuesday afternoon when things got a little scary.
Half the group was fishing, while the other half were either swimming or playing in the sand. But what seemed to be the perfect summer afternoon got
turned upside down the moment Vasconcellos heard his fiancÈ, Carney, scream.
Carney was screaming for help, yelling that something was after her. An unknown ominous sea creature seemed to be toying with Carney, who was swimming
beyond the "Danger" sign posted at the quiet beach.
The sea creature -- described as being about 15-feet long, with four-inch teeth, greenish-black skin and a white belly -- was swimming around Carney
and popping its head out of the water to expose its teeth and hiss in a manner that could not soon be forgotten, Carney said.
"I was deep out in the water and kept hearing this hissing sound. Then I saw its head come up showing me its big teeth," Carney said. "It kept
rolling while it was swimming and knocking into my feet. I just froze."
In the meantime, Vasconcellos said he swam out to her aide and just grabbed her from the backside and told her "don't look back."
"This thing was big. I mean it's head was almost the size of a basketball," Vasconcellos said. "I just kept backing in to shore, but it was
looking at me and hissing. The other people around there were pulling their kids out of the water."
Within minutes, the pair was back near the beach and safe again.
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Center for Marine Science and Technology in New Bedford, one of the leadingmarine science research centers in
the region, has its lead aquaculturist baffled by the description of the serpent-like creature.
Ed Baker, the center's lead aquaculturist, said Wednesday that the description given is unlike any animal he knows. He said it is conceivable that a
tropical animal was swept northward through a strong and warm gulf current.
He said a piranha was recently found in Coventry, R.I., and an alligator is on the run in Lincoln, R.I.
Therefore, the mystery animal may have been placed in the water by a local resident or it may have been carried into Rhode Island waters from the
While the drama was playing out, Mailloux, who was nursing a badly wounded leg in the brackish water said he witnessed the whole thing.
"I just saw (Carney) swimming as fast as I've ever seen anyone go," Mailloux said. "Then I saw this big, big thing spinning around the two of
"It kind of looked like a giant eel to me, but I'm sure it wasn't because it was so big and had that white belly."
Mailloux and the others said it was difficult to get to sleep Tuesday night. He said he felt partly responsible because the sea creature may have been
attracted to the blood pouring out from his leg into the water.
Mailloux, just minutes before, had caught a fish and slipped on the rocks near the beach, cutting his legs.
"I don't know if it was a shark or what. All I know is that (Carney and Vasconcellos) were both hysterical when they got out of the water,"
Mailloux said. "I've lived near water for years and have never seen an animal like that, ever."
Vasconcellos is also a somewhat experienced fisherman and also stated that he has no idea what the creature was.
"My heart is still pounding. I don't want to seem scared but people should know to keep their children close, because that thing was definitely big
enough to kill us," Vasconcellos said. "I thought I was dead."
Portsmouth police said Wednesday that they have not received any calls about the large animal. But Vasconcellos said he would be calling the police to
report what he and the rest of his group saw.
Mailloux said he thinks the animal is nesting under the unusually warm waters of the protected cove. He said he saw the animal disappear near one of
six broken-down piers in the area, which could be used as a nesting area.
"That thing was not from around here," Mailloux said. "I think it might have come up with the tropical stream of water and found a good place to
breed this summer."
Baker said Mailloux's hypothesis about the animal breeding in the area is "somewhat of a stretch," and believes that the mysterious sea creature is
probably in distress and is using the pier structure as a place to hide.
Gregg M. Miliote may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.