Updated: Woman injured in shark attack off South Maui

KIHEI — A 2-mile stretch of beach in South Maui was closed Friday after a woman was bitten by a shark while snorkeling at Keawakapu Beach in Kihei.

The attack occurred at about 1 p.m. near rocks at the south end of the beach, said police Capt. Tivoli Faaumu, commander of the Kihei Patrol District.

He said witnesses reported that the victim, a 58-year-old Haiku resident, was about 60 feet offshore and swimming back to shore when the shark came up and bit her on the right calf. The woman made her way onto the reef and yelled for help, Faaumu said.

Haiku resident Marsha Lowery was on the beach when she heard people yelling to call 911.

She went into the ocean to join other beachgoers using a bodyboard to bring the injured woman to shore. The water level “wasn’t deep at all,” Lowery said.

She said she saw a small wound on one side of the woman’s leg, but on the other side of her leg at the calf, the bite was 6 to 8 inches long and “pretty deep,” Lowery said.

Lowery, who is a naturopath, applied compression to the wound and used a board leash as a tourniquet on the woman’s upper leg.

“She was alert and calm the whole time,” Lowery said. “She was responding. She was insisting we get her phone so she could call her family. She looked good.”

“There were a lot of people helping and trying to do what they could,” Lowery said, including a visiting anesthesiologist.

The injured woman told other beachgoers that she had been following a turtle when she felt the shark come up behind her and grab her.

After the woman was brought to shore, medics continued to tend to her and transported her by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center. Her condition wasn’t known, but the attack wasn’t fatal, Maui County spokeswoman Lois Whitney said Friday.

After the attack, police closed the beach from the Kihei Boat Ramp to the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Maui County ocean safety officers on personal watercraft patrolled the waters for signs of the shark.

Officers and state Department of Land and Natural Resources staff posted signs at public access areas along the shoreline saying the beach was closed and warning beachgoers of the shark sighting.

The warning signs were to remain up until an assessment this morning, according to DLNR. If no sharks are sighted, the signs are to be removed and the beach reopened by noon today.

The shark attack Friday was the seventh reported this year off Maui and the third off South Maui, according to DLNR.

In one South Maui attack, 20-year-old German visitor Jana Lutteropp died after her right arm was bitten off by a shark Aug. 14 while she was snorkeling at Palauea Beach in Makena. Two weeks earlier, 56-year-old Evonne Cashman of Cerritos, Calif., suffered wounds to her hands, chin, back and neck area after being bitten by a shark while snorkeling at Ulua Beach in Wailea.

Nonfatal shark bites also were reported Oct. 31 to a kitesurfer at Ka’a Point near Kanaha Beach Park in Kahului and Oct. 23 to a dive instructor at Ka’ehu Bay in Waiehu.

Turbid water was reported in those four previous attacks.

Lowery’s husband, Travis Rice, was walking with their son when the shark attack occurred at Keawakapu, learning what had happened when he returned to the beach and saw blood on Lowery’s arm from helping the injured woman. He said the couple has gone to the Kihei beach thinking it was safer than those in other parts of the island.

While the water may have been a little murky when he was out on his surfboard earlier Friday, “it’s a nice day,” he said.

“I’m a little spooked,” he said.