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Apparent shark attack reported off South Maui beach

Part-time resident taken to hospital in serious condition

An Ocean Safety officer passes a no-swimming sign while patrolling the waters off Charley Young Beach after a shark attack Friday in Kihei. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Bystanders swam and paddled to the rescue of a screaming woman — the victim of an apparent shark attack off Charley Young Beach and Cove Park in Kihei on Friday — and brought her on a paddleboard to shore, where she was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Shark-warning signs, advising people not to go into the ocean, were posted from Kalama Park to Kamaole Beach Park III in Kihei after the attack at about 10 a.m., according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. DLNR, Ocean Safety officers and Maui Fire Department officials planned to survey the shoreline today at about noon to determine whether to reopen the beaches.

The 66-year-old victim, a part-time Kihei resident from Washington state, was swimming about 20 to 30 yards offshore between Charley Young Beach and Cove Park in about 7 feet of water at the time of the attack, Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said. Ocean conditions were calm but somewhat murky, DLNR reported.

The woman yelled for help after the attack, and a male visitor from Washington state swam and a stand-up paddleboarder paddled to the woman’s aid, said Taomoto. The woman was pulled onto the board and brought back to shore.

By then, lifeguards at nearby Kamaole I Beach Park saw the commotion and ran toward Charley Young Beach.

Two nurses and a firefighter vacationing from the Mainland began treating the woman before Ocean Safety lifeguards arrived and took over, Taomoto said. Paramedics treated the woman and transported her to Maui Memorial Medical Center.

There were no witnesses to confirm the shark attack, but the woman’s injuries were consistent with a shark bite, Taomoto said.

Fire Capt. Jeff Meadows, who arrived at the scene after the woman had been brought to shore, said her injuries “looked pretty bad” and ran from below the knee down the calf of her left leg. He said “it had a consistency of a shark bite.”

The woman had “lost quite a bit of blood,” and the tourniquet quickly applied by lifeguards “probably saved her life,” he said. Meadows lauded the “joint effort” of rescuers, bystanders and Ocean Safety officials.

Meadows said that the woman was conscious and talking, and more in shock than in pain.

Ocean Safety officials got on bullhorns and personal watercraft to get swimmers out of the water.

Berg Ellis, 12, of Calgary, Canada, was swimming at Kamaole III when he heard the call for “everyone to evacuate the water.”

“There has been a shark attack at Kamaole I,” the announcement said.

Kamaole III, about a half-mile down South Kihei Road from Kamaole I, was fairly crowded. Everyone got out of the water, and Ocean Safety officers on personal watercraft notified those who did not hear the alert to swim to shore, he said.

Berg said he was about 30 yards out.

“I was a bit worried when I heard the shark thing because I was kind of deep,” Berg said, adding that he swam to shore as fast as he could.

This shark attack was the fifth this year for the island of Maui, according to the state Division of Aquatic Resources “Hawai’i Sharks” website. The last attack was Aug. 16 about a mile off of Hamakuapoko. The stand-up paddleboarder was not injured, though the shark took a chunk of his board.

On May 3, a swimmer reported suffering minor shoulder lacerations in an incident about 40 yards off Wailea Beach.

Other attacks were reported this year off Olowalu in March and Wailea Beach in January.

The last fatal attack occurred April 29, 2015, off Ahihi Bay in South Maui about 200 yards offshore. The victim, Margaret C. Cruse, 65, suffered deep lacerations to her right shoulder and underarm and minor lacerations to her right arm and right side of her face.

DLNR posted a warning earlier this month saying that shark bites are more common in October than other months. With Friday’s attack, there have been 14 shark incidents off Maui in October since 1995, according to the state website.

Swimmers can minimize their risk of shark attacks by using beaches with lifeguards, staying near other people and not going too far from shore. Oceangoers also should avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths, state officials said.

For general shark information and other safety tips, go to http://hawaiisharks.org.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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