Shark bites off snorkeler’s arm

A visitor from Germany was critically injured and lost her right arm in an apparent shark attack Wednesday afternoon at a Makena beach in South Maui.

It was the fifth shark attack so far this year in Maui waters, where a jump in attacks was seen last year, and was the eighth attack this year statewide, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

This puts the state on pace to top 2012’s record of 11, the most attacks in the past 12 years and more than twice the yearly average of 4.75 attacks.

The woman, about 20, was snorkeling at Palauea Beach, also known as White Rock, when beachgoers heard her cries for help.

“She screamed and called for help,” said Maui Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. Beachgoers went to the woman’s aid and brought her to shore in a kayak.

The woman had been snorkeling roughly 50 yards offshore when the apparent attack occurred. The water was choppy with limited visibility, the county said.

The Maui Fire Department got the call at 4:41 p.m. Wednesday.

Responding firefighters administered first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the unconscious woman.

“Her right arm was severed right below the shoulder,” Mainaga said. The arm was not found, he said.

She was taken by ambulance in critical condition to Maui Memorial Medical Center, Mainaga said.

The woman was with a couple of friends, who did not see the attack or a shark, he said.

The shark attack could not be confirmed because no one saw anything, Mainaga said.

“Everybody is under the assumption that it was a shark.”

Maui County lifeguards worked with the Fire Department to fly a helicopter along the coastline to check for the presence of sharks, a Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman said in an email.

They closed the shoreline 1 mile north to Mana Kai Maui Resort and 1 mile south to Makena Resort, Mainaga said. Officials said they will reassess the closure this morning.

Witnessed told Maui Now that it took some time before the woman was brought to shore.

Palauea Beach has no reef to prevent sharks from coming closer to shore.

DLNR has awarded a two-year, $186,000 contract to University of Hawaii shark researchers to study the spatial dynamics of tiger sharks around Maui.

DLNR education and outreach coordinator Laura Stevens had said that spear fishermen were reporting “increasing boldness of large sharks encountered in Maui waters.”

Tiger shark attacks are the most common, and the species is considered the most aggressive in Hawaii waters.

Most of the shark attacks in Hawaii waters do not, however, result in critical injuries, and fatalities are few. Perhaps the best known Hawaii shark attack survivor is surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her left arm in October 2003 off Haena, Kauai.

The last fatal attack was in April 2004, when 57-year-old Willis Mc­Innis was attacked by a tiger shark while surfing off Pohaku Park, Maui. He suffered a 14-inch bite wound in his right thigh and died of blood loss. That was the first fatal attack in more than 10 years here.

On Tuesday, a shark, estimated at roughly 10 to 12 feet long, bit an unmanned kiteboard at Kaa Point near Kahana Beach Park in Kahului. Morgan Flannery of San Francisco ditched her kiteboard a quarter-mile offshore after having trouble with it, swam to shore and watched as the shark attacked it.

At 8:15 a.m. July 31, a California woman, Evonne Cashman, was snorkeling about 125 yards offshore at Ulua Beach in Wailea when a shark attacked her in 10 feet of turbid water.

She suffered puncture wounds to both surfaces of the right side of her torso and cuts to her right hand.

At 6 p.m. Feb. 21, two attacks by reef sharks occurred on Maui, one at Honokowai in Kaanapali, and another in Paia Bay.

There have been six shark attacks on people in Hawaii waters this year:

[list][list_item icon=”icon-th”]At 4:30 p.m. Jan. 16, a man was surfing in 10 feet of water about 200 yards off Kiholo Bay, Hawaii island, when a 10-foot-long tiger shark bit him. He suffered cuts on his right forearm and the lower part of his right leg.[/list_item][list_item icon=”icon-th”]About 6 p.m. Feb. 21, Jacob Lansky was surfing about 75 yards offshore of Paia Bay, Maui, when a 6-foot-long reef shark bit the rail of his foam board. Lansky was not injured.[/list_item][list_item icon=”icon-th”]At 8:30 a.m. April 2, a 58-year-old California man visiting Maui was bitten while surfing off Kaanapali. He suffered two deep cuts on his right thigh.[/list_item][list_item icon=”icon-th”]At 2 p.m. July 29, a 19-year-old Kaneohe man was bitten by what was believed to be a tiger shark at White Plains Beach. Kiowa Gatewood underwent emergency surgery.[/list_item][list_item icon=”icon-th”]Between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. July 31, a woman was bitten about 30 feet off a rocky point at Ulua Beach in Wailea in murky water. The California visitor was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center and underwent surgery.[/list_item][list_item icon=”icon-th”]At 4:41 p.m. Wednesday, a visitor from Germany was critically injured and lost her right arm in an apparent shark attack near Makena, Maui. Witnesses did not see a shark.[/list_item][/list]