Shark attacks visitor snorkeling at Oahu beach
By Will Hoover
The shark victim got aid on the Bellows beach. In blue trunks on the far left is a man named Ray who helped get the victim to shore.
A sign at Lanikai Beach warned that the shark might still be prowling offshore.
A shark attacked a man snorkeling off the military-only side of Bellows Beach yesterday, causing a serious leg wound and prompting officials to close beaches from Lanikai to Waimanalo.
Beachgoers later reported seeing a shark attack at least two sea turtles off Bellows and Lanikai, killing one of the turtles.
Two men who were at the beach helped pull the snorkeler from the water about 3:15 p.m. and fashioned a tourniquet above his left calf to slow the bleeding.
"The guy was talking the whole time, even while we were pulling him into shore" said Don Ewing, part of a civil engineering crew working at Bellows. "He was thanking us and saying, 'I hope I don't lose my leg.' "
The man said he punched the shark in the snout, Ewing noted.
The victim, a 36-year-old Mainland visitor, was taken to The Queen's Medical Center in serious but stable condition with a severe bite wound to his left leg below the knee, said city emergency services spokesman Bryan Cheplic.
Witnesses described the shark as an 8-foot tiger shark, but authorities at the scene said that had not been confirmed.
RESCUERS WADE IN
City lifeguards closed Windward beaches from Sherwood Forest near Waimanalo Beach Park to the Kailua boat ramp, fire department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig said. He said shark warning signs were posted and that the beaches would remain closed at least through this morning.
It was the first reported shark attack off O'ahu in 16 months. On March 23, 2006, a Vancouver, B.C., woman survived a shark's bite to her left calf while surfing at Left Overs, a surf spot a mile south of Waimea Bay.
The most recent shark attack in the state was May 7, when a Marin County, Calif., woman survived a shark bite to her right calf and foot while snorkeling at Keawakapu Beach in Kihei, Maui.
Yesterday's attacked happened about 150 yards offshore, near the rocky point that separates Bellows from Lanikai.
The man and his wife were staying at one of the bungalows on the military side of Bellows Beach.
Ewing said that about 3:15 p.m. he heard someone yelling, "Help!" and "Shark!" offshore, and noticed another man from shore making his way through the water toward the victim. Ewing said he removed his steel-toed boots and waded in to assist. He and the other man — who he knows only as Ray — were able to bring the injured man to the beach, Ewing said.
Ewing, 56, credited Ray with saving the snorkeler's life.
"He (the victim) could have been in very serious trouble if that guy hadn't got out there when he did," Ewing said. Ewing fashioned a tourniquet around the victim's leg with a nylon strap someone brought down to the water. Cheplic said the bleeding was stabilized by the time emergency personnel got there.
"I held a tourniquet on his leg above the knee for at least 15 minutes," he said. Ewing said he was eventually relieved by a firefighter.
"From the knee on down, the guy's leg was pretty chewed up. I'd say there were four to five lacerations. ... The cuts were deep. There were places where it looked like they were to the bone," Ewing said.
The victim told Ewing he had been snorkeling and observing the sea life right before the attack. Suddenly, he said, fish zipped away in all directions and a 6- to 8-foot shark came at him.
There was nothing he could do to prevent the shark from striking, the man told Ewing — although he said he did manage to punch the shark in the nose more than once.
While paramedics tended to the victim, the fire department's Air One helicopter was in the air and a rescue company moved up and down the shore in a boat warning swimmers to leave the water and advising bathers that the beach was closed.
Cheplic urged residents and visitors not to use the waters off Lanikai Beach this morning.
"We will be there first thing to do an early morning assessment at 5 a.m.," he said. "Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Division will be patrolling the beach, and we would greatly appreciate it if people would please refrain from swimming there until after our assessment is done."
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com.
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