A visitor from California is recovering at Maui Memorial Medical Center after being bitten by a large shark Wednesday morning in Wailea.
The attack comes less than a month after a massive shark was spotted and photographed in the same area.
Evonne Cashman cannot believe she is alive.
“I still can’t believe that it happened. I’m finding it hard to believe,” Cashman said.
Cashman, 56, was enjoying a morning swim about 30 feet off Ulua Beach in Wailea when she says a shark slammed into her.
“I must have had my hands up in front of my face. I think my head was above water, if I remember correctly. I don’t know because it happened so fast. I didn’t see him coming. I didn’t see him leave. He just came and hit me hard and bit me hard and I just took off to the shore as fast as I could,” Cashman said.
The attack happened at 8:45 a.m. in about 10 feet of water. Cashman says although the water was murky, she saw a turtle moments before she was attacked.
“I got hit really hard and bit and then he let go as quickly as he bit me. And then I just started swimming to shore as fast I as I could, yelling ‘help’ the whole way,” Cashman said.
The bite left a 15-inch wound from the middle of her spine to her neck. She also suffered injuries to her chin and both hands.
Cashman underwent emergency surgery. She says the ER doctor told her based on her injuries, this was a huge animal.
“He thinks according to the bites and where they are and what they look like, it was probably about a 25-foot shark. That was his guess,” Cashman said.
Maui County and the state immediately closed off the area a mile in both directions. Signs were also posted warning people not to enter the ocean.
“He only bit once and he let go right away thank goodness and I’m grateful to God for that,” Cashman said. “My mask was gone. I think that might have been what protected my face from getting more.”
Kihei resident Glenna Rand says she saw a large shark off Kalama Park twice in June and snapped a few photos of the massive animal, estimated at 13 to 15 feet.
“The shark just kind of swam along with us as we were walking and it just got closer and closer to the shore and it was in three or four feet of water,” Rand said.
Rand alerted the state and shared her pictures. She says the same shark reappeared two weeks later.
“Same thing, kind of just right close to shore and so that’s why when I heard about this attack yesterday, I thought, ‘Hmm,’” Rand said.
Cashman knows this could have been worse.
“He thought I was a turtle or something, tasted me, and said this is not what I want and let go. So I am very grateful and very thankful that it’s not any worse than it is,” Cashman said. “I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and something good is going to come out of this.”
The Department of Land and Natural Resources reopened the beaches from Polo Beach Park to the Mana Kai Maui Resort at noon Thursday.
Related story: Woman attacked by shark in waters off South Maui