Shark attack fatal for Washington man
KIHEI – A visiting kayaker from Washington state died Monday morning after part of his right leg was bitten off by a shark about a half-mile off Little Beach in Makena, state and county officials said.
Beaches from the Makena Landing to the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Preserve were closed Monday; state and county officials were to make an assessment this morning to determine whether to reopen the shoreline today.
And the chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Monday afternoon that despite the fact that this was the second fatal shark attack in three months and the second attack in three days off South Maui, the state would not be hunting sharks or “be in the business of taking personal choice out of people wanting to go to the beach.”
The victim of the latest shark attack, Patrick A. Briney, 57, of Stevenson, Wash., began kayaking with a friend at about 6:45 a.m., leaving Makena Landing headed toward Big Beach, Maui police said.
The friend said that Briney was fishing with artificial lures to attract baitfish when his dangling foot was bitten by a shark, DLNR said.
At about 9 a.m., Briney began to scream, which caught the attention of his fishing partner, who was about 500 yards away, police said. The friend paddled over and found Briney bleeding profusely and tied a tourniquet around his right leg.
The friend then paddled and waved to a nearby charter tour boat, from Ed Robinson’s Diving Adventures, for assistance.
“We were coming from Molokini to our second dive spot, and we docked the boat and noticed there was a man waving his arms and paddling towards us,” said William Dunaway, who was on the tour boat with a group of divers, including his wife, Dr. Viviane Alfandary. “He was tethered to another kayak, and we assumed he was fishing but when we got closer we saw there was a body lying down across the (other) kayak.
“His (right) foot was missing, and his calf was completely shredded.”
The visiting couple from Berkeley, Calif., said Briney had additional wounds to his hands.
Crew members from the tour boat helped load the victim onto the boat; Alfandary said there was no blood on Briney or in the kayak.
“Obviously, he bled out,” said Alfandary, who is a physician at John Muir Medical Group in Walnut Creek, Calif. “There wasn’t much left of his leg below his knee. His color was so pale, and his pupils were fixed and dilated. We also knew he had been out there for quite a while already.
“It was too late. It was really sad.”
The three crew members of the tour boat declined comment.
The boat brought the injured man to the Kihei Boat Ramp. Maui County Ocean Safety officers received the call to respond to the boat ramp and the shark attack at about 10:20 a.m, DLNR said.
About a dozen police officers and DLNR officials were at the ramp; Briney’s body, which was placed in a black body bag, and his kayak were transported from the scene at about 11:30 a.m.
County and state officials have closed beaches from Makena Landing to the surf area known as “Dumps” until at least noon today. The waters off Makena State Recreational Area have been closed as well.
Andy Schwanke, a captain with Mike Severns Diving, was with a group of a dozen divers Monday morning before he heard the U.S. Coast Guard issue a warning about the fatal shark attack. He said his group was about a mile away and had not seen any sharks.
“It was a normal day; we wouldn’t have guessed anything happened,” said Schwanke, standing on his boat at the ramp. “I saw Ed Robinson’s boat heading to the ramp, and I would’ve guessed that the visibility or current was bad.”
Schwanke said he had been about to take the group to the location of the attack, but the current was a little strong and the water was slightly turbid.
“You could see 40 to 45 feet (down), but I wouldn’t call it crystal clear,” he said.
Shark warning signs were posted to advise the public to remain out of the water from Ahihi Bay to Makena Landing, DLNR said.
DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said Monday afternoon that the state was taking a more cautious approach although “(Briney) was at least a half a mile offshore and was fishing or trying to draw (sea life) to himself.”
“(The attack) probably did not raise the level of risk of nearby beaches, but we’re taking this (approach) out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
This is the second shark attack in the general area off South Maui in three days. A woman was bitten by a shark while snorkeling off Keawakapu Beach on Friday afternoon. She suffered leg injuries but survived the attack.
It also was the second fatal attack in three months; the other occurred off Palauea Beach in Makena in August. Jana Lutteropp, a 20-year-old German visitor, died in the hospital days after her right arm was bitten off by a shark.
Following Monday’s attack, DLNR Chairman William J. Aila Jr. held a news conference on Oahu to address the recent attacks and told The Maui News that oceangoers should be aware and cautious of their surroundings but that the state would not close beaches outside of its standard shark-attack protocol.
“We’re not going to tell people not to snorkel, surf and especially not go kayaking,” he said. “We do tell people to be aware of their surroundings and (not bring) unnecessary attention to yourself.”
When asked if the state was looking into preventatively closing beaches based on an area’s water quality or recent history of shark attacks, he said: “I think the state is not going to be in the business of taking personal choice out of people wanting to go to the beach.”
“All of our recommendations are online and shared,” he said. “If we were to close beaches based on clarity (of water) then half the beaches in Hawaii would be closed on a daily basis.”
The attack on Briney was the eighth shark incident reported off Maui this year, according to DLNR.
Over the last two decades, the state has averaged about four unprovoked shark incidents per year. There were no reported incidents in 1998 and just one in 2008, DLNR said. In 2012, the 10 incidents reported statewide at the time were unprecedented.
“We are not sure why these bites are occurring more frequently than normal, especially around Maui. That’s why we are conducting a two-year study of shark behavior around Maui that may give us better insights,” Aila said in a news release. “It is our hope and expectation that numbers of incidents will return to a more normal range in the near future.
“We offer our condolences to the family of the victim. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Russell Sparks, Division of Aquatic Resources’ Maui education specialist, said that shark incidents are “still incredibly rare” in light of the thousands of people in the ocean daily. Researchers say that the number of incidents is up due to more people being in the water, he said.
“I think it’s hard for people to grasp that when they see another shark attack on the news,” Sparks said. “But when you think of how many thousands and thousands of people that are in the water every day . . . you can’t take that out of context.”
He cited people swimming alone, in murky water and hovering near the surface as common themes in the recent attacks. A DLNR-sponsored website, hawaiisharks.com, offered 10 tips to reduce the risk of a shark incident – swimming with others and staying out of murky water are two of the suggestions.
“We make risks unconsciously every day in our lives, so it’s no different,” he said of the shark attacks. “We certainly have a much better understanding about sharks’ role in the ecosystem, so just going out and removing sharks is not what we want to do. In fact, there are worldwide efforts to protect sharks.”
Aila said that early data from the two-year study that began in August already suggests that there is a “definite pattern of randomness” to tiger shark movements.
“There’s a constant call for us to cull sharks, but the likelihood of catching the shark that made the bite” is very small, he said.
DLNR staff and county lifeguards were continuing to monitor the nearshore waters Monday and planned to reassess the area this morning. If no sharks are seen, the area will reopen at noon today, following state shark incident protocol.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.