Beach reopens after shark attack
October 7, 1999
A 16-year-old Kona youth who was attacked by a shark Friday evening has been transferred to Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu where doctors were reported to be fighting to save his arm.
The boy was surfing off Old Kona Airport State Park when he was attacked by a shark 6 to 8 feet long shortly before 6:30 p.m. Friday.
A hospital spokesman said the boy's parents asked that information on his condition not be released, but television reports indicated he underwent surgery Saturday for serious injuries to his right arm.
Department of Land and Natural Resources officials conducting a search for the shark Saturday at Old Kona Airport identified the teen-ager as Jessie Spencer.
According to the Fire Department incident report, the shark grabbed the teen-ager's arm, but he was able to pull away and paddle to shore with his left arm.
A surfing companion said he believed it was a tiger shark, DLNR officials reported.
The injured boy was taken to Kona Community Hospital and was transferred to Queen's late Saturday morning.
Kona police said the boy had severe lacerations on his upper right arm and a gouge in the lower part of the arm.
The Fire Department statement said the boy's arm was "mangled." Hawaii County Civil Defense officials closed the shoreline Saturday from the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center to the area fronting Kona Bay Estates.
The county helicopter conducted an aerial search for the shark, and agents from the DLNR Enforcement Division and Aquatics Division searched by boat and walking the shoreline, said DLNR Enforcement Division West Hawaii supervisor Charles Nahale. However, no shark was found Saturday, and officials said the park would reopen at 7 a.m. today.
Authorities also advised tour boat operators and dive companies to keep their customers out of the water Saturday, Nahale said.
It was the fourth shark attack in Hawaii this year, including two attacks off Maui.
The last attack in Big Island waters was July 21 when a 43-year-old man said he was attacked by a shark while surfing off Honolii near Hilo.
Griffith Yamaguchi had injuries to his thigh and buttocks. Before this year, the last confirmed Big Island shark attack was in 1972, when Eric Fotherby was bitten on the forearm by an eight-foot shark while spear fishing off Waimanu Valley.
And the last confirmed West Hawaii attack was April 12, 1963 when Aiona Aka was bitten on the leg and foot while surfing at Awili in South Kona.
A 12- to 15-foot shark was seen in the area. An unconfirmed attack was reported April 15, 1987, in Kailua Bay, when Daniel Kennedy was last seen swimming out to an anchored sailboat.
His shorts, which bore the marks of shark teeth, were found at the bottom of the bay, but no other evidence could be gathered to confirm an attack.
Despite more than 100 known shark attacks in Hawaii's waters since 1900, the Big Island has yet to record a single confirmed fatality caused to a shark during this century.