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Paia man, 36, bitten by shark at Hookipa

A 36-year-old Paia man was bitten by a 5-foot reef shark on the left arm and then the left leg late Friday afternoon off the west point of Hookipa Beach Park, a Maui fire official said.

At about 5 p.m., a surfer looked over after hearing a man scream and saw a 5-foot reef shark biting the surfer’s left arm, Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said Friday evening. The shark let go and then bit the man again in the left leg.

Other surfers came to the victim’s aid and helped paddle the man to shore. He was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center in serious condition, said Taomoto, adding that the arm injury was the more serious injury.

Beaches were closed along a 2-mile stretch from Maliko Bay to Tavares Bay, Taomoto said. Firefighters and conservation officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement cleared the ocean of surfers at the beach park and will warn people against entering the water until an assessment is made this morning.

Shark-warning signs have been posted along the shoreline to alert ocean users to the shark sighting. If county ocean safety officers observe no shark activity this morning, the signs will be taken down at noon and the shoreline reopened, per the state’s shark response protocol, Taomoto said.

The man was surfing about 50 yards from shore off the surf spot known as “H-Poko,” Taomoto said. Ocean conditions were windy, choppy and murky Friday afternoon, said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

Firefighters got the call just after 5 p.m. and were on scene about 10 minutes later. Paramedics already were loading the victim into the ambulance, Taomoto said. Unable to speak to the victim, firefighters obtained the details of the shark attack from witnesses at the beach, a world-renowned surfing spot, he said.

This is the sixth shark attack this year on Maui and the second in a week. A 66-year-old woman, a part-time Kihei resident from Washington state, was the apparent victim of a shark attack Oct. 14 off Charley Young Beach in Kihei. She suffered severe injuries to her lower left leg and was hospitalized.

The woman 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, according to fire officials. The ocean was calm but murky.

The 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 15 shark incidents off Maui in October since 1995, according to the DLNR’s “Hawai’i Sharks” 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 should avoid murky water and areas near stream mouths, state officials say.

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