Warning signs are up along a stretch of Maui coast after a snorkeler was suspected of being attacked by a shark.
It happened just before 10 a.m. Friday at Charlie Young Beach Park in Kihei. The victim was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center in serious condition with a severe leg injury.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources tells us that October is historically the month with the highest number of shark attacks.
The victim has been identified as a 66-year-old woman from Washington State who is a part-time Kihei resident. She was snorkeling about 20-30 yards from shore in water seven feet deep just offshore from the park.
There were no witnesses that could confirm a shark sighting, but the woman’s injuries to her left leg appear consistent with that of a shark bite.
A male visitor from Washington State swam out to assist the woman. A nearby stand-up paddle boarder also heard the commotion and came to her aid. The woman was pulled onto the board and brought back to shore.
“We saw someone screaming and people came in to help us, so we swam into the water and helped the girl out,” said Pierre Luc.
He said the woman was bleeding profusely. “She was missing half her calf,” he said.
Arseneau Luc said “when we did get her out, she was awake and conscious, but then she did lose consciousness. Her pulse was really low. … We did apply pressure until the paramedics came. We put the tourniquet on.”
Ocean conditions at the time were calm, but somewhat murky.
At last report Saturday, the woman was in stable condition at the hospital.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says more shark attacks in Hawaii are documented in October than any other month in the year — from 1980 to 2015, there have been 26 attacks in October, compared to only four for the previous month of September.
“These are still very rare events when you consider the large number of people who are in the water on any given day,” said Carl Meyer of the UH Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology by phone.
Maui has seen three shark attacks so far this year. It’s not clear what type of shark attacked the victim, but Meyer says a recent study showed Maui has attractive waters for tiger sharks.
“They are areas that contain all the things that tiger sharks need,” he said, “the food that they prefer, which is mainly reef associated organisms, and other tiger shraks for breeding purposes.”
Staff from DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and Division of Aquatic Resources were assisting Maui Ocean Safety in warning ocean users by jet skis, and beachgoers while patrolling the shore.
Warning signs were posted along the Kihei coastline from Kalama Park to Kamaole Beach Park III. They were taken down early Saturday afternoon after the state’s reassessment of the situation.
For general shark information and safety tips go to hawaiisharks.org.