Shark bites swimmer

WAIEHU – A 45-year-old dive instructor was bitten by a shark while swimming about 100 yards offshore of Kaehu Beach in Waiehu on Wednesday afternoon.

Shane Mills, a dive instructor and captain with dive operator Scuba Shack, was scoping out potential spearfishing spots in the shallows when he said he felt the bite to the lower left side of his torso before turning around and seeing the fin.

“When I saw the fin, then I noticed it was a shark,” the Waiehu resident said just moments after the attack. “It wasn’t like a dog bite or anything. It felt like a cat grabbing you, you could feel it though. . . . It ripped my shorts off.”

Mills sustained several lacerations to the left side of his lower back. There were a couple of puncture wounds and a couple of lacerations running about 8 inches long. The left side of his board shorts was shredded.

After he turned around and saw the shark’s fin, Mills said he kicked and elbowed it, making contact with the shark. The shark dove underwater and Mills began swimming for shore.

“I would swim three strokes, turn around and look back just to make sure something wasn’t following me,” Mills said.

Even though he encounters sharks every day at work, Mills said that he had never really considered the possibility of being bit by one. He said that before getting in the water, he noticed it was “a little brown (murky), but it’s been like that forever.”

Kahului resident Arnold Arenas was fishing from the beach when he saw “a big splash and the shark tail come out” of the water right next to where Mills was swimming. He called 911 and reported the suspected shark attack at 3:55 p.m., while Mills was still swimming to shore.

“I knew it was a shark from the tail,” Arenas said.

Though Mills had estimated the shark was around 6 feet long, Arenas said that judging from the tail, he thinks it was bigger and probably a tiger shark.

“I was watching him coming in, (thinking) should I just go out there and help this guy out?” Arenas said. “If he was waving me down and telling me to come, I would’ve jumped in the water with my three-prong and at least try to save him. I dive a lot and if I got bitten and I waved someone down. . . . I would want them to come.”

Arenas said that he was actually diving in the water just 10 minutes before the attack.

“We dive on that side plenty, never seen a shark. I was just in the water too, but I got a funny feeling so I got out,” he said.

Mills was treated on the scene by medics, but turned down the ambulance ride to the hospital. His girlfriend, who was at the beach with him, drove him to the hospital shortly after the incident.

Maui County Ocean Safety officers cleared the water of other ocean users and made checks in the area, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources also was on the scene Wednesday afternoon conducting an investigation.

All ocean activity from the beaches known as Sand Piles to Y. Hata in the Paukukalo-Waiehu area has been suspended for 24 hours, said lifeguards at the scene Wednesday.

The website Hawaii Sharks, sponsored by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, has logged four previous Maui shark attacks this year, including the last one on Aug. 14 that took the life of 20-year-old Jana Lutteropp of Germany in an attack off Palauea Beach in South Maui. The attacks include confirmed bites of people or boards.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at