Shark attack in South Maui; beaches closed
A shark reportedly attacked a woman off a South Maui beach Wednesday morning, sending her to Maui Memorial Medical Center's emergency room and triggering a closure of beaches from Polo Beach to the Mana Kai Maui resort.
The attack happened between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. at Ulua Beach, according to Clarence Yamamoto, Maui chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement.
Officials believe it was a shark attack incident, he said. He declined to go into detail about the woman's injuries, although there was at least one bite.
There was "limited visibility" in the water, Yamamoto said.
The woman did not report the species of shark that attacked her, and she was able to swim to shore without assistance, he said. It was not clear how far off shore the woman was at the time of the attack.
State Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers and officials with the state Division of Aquatic Resources posted warning signs and were assigned to remain at the scene of the attack, patrolling waters with personal watercraft at least until sunset, he said. County ocean safety officers were assisting on personal watercraft.
Officials planned to continue patrolling the area after first light Thursday and to keep the area off limits to swimmers and others until at least noon. Then, an assessment would be made to determine whether to reopen the beaches, Yamamoto said.
There were no other reports of shark sightings, he said.
San Francisco area resident Dave Thomas said he went to Ulua Beach on Wednesday morning to do some paddle boarding when he noticed a group of people surrounding a woman at the shorebreak.
The woman had numerous cuts on her back and was bleeding from her face and forehead, he said.
"At first I thought she ran into coral," he said. "She wasn't yelling or screaming. She was slumped over."
Then, someone told him the woman had been bitten by a shark.
The water was somewhat murky, although it was relatively calm, with some white caps, he said. The woman had no snorkel equipment and appeared to have been swimming in shallow water among other people a short distance from shore when the incident occurred, he said.
Thomas said he's been visiting Maui for 40 years, and "this is the first time we've had a shark incident; first time we've had a tropical depression."
Thomas said he was able to take his rented paddle board out a short distance before officials closed the beach and called him back to shore.
"It's a bummer," he said.