A shark attack on a surfer Sunday was the latest in a series of such incidents off the Hawaiian coast this year, a skein that has injured several swimmers and closed beaches and last week led to a dramatic rescue by two good Samaritans of a German tourist whose arm had been bitten off.
But some authorities are warning against any “Jaws”-like panic.
“The sharks are always out there. We’ll go along for months at a time and nothing happens, and then we’ll get one, two and three,” Maui Fire Department Capt. Jeff Giesea told the Los Angeles Times.
“My perspective is that there is a lot of randomness in the world, and it’s easy to try and superimpose order on that.”
On Sunday, a surfer off the Big Island of Hawaii was bitten in the leg, marking the eighth shark attack this year in state waters. Authorities say the 16-year-old boy was attacked near Isaac Hale Park in Puna.
The boy, identified by Hawaii News Now as Jimmy "Ulu Boy" Napeahi, was in Pohoiki Bay in an area known as Dead Trees at about 1:30 p.m. when a shark attacked him from behind. He was reported in stable condition Monday.
The predator shark has been described as gray-colored and 8 feet long. A lifeguard treated the boy’s wounds before first responders arrived.
Earlier Sunday, the sighting of a large tiger shark on the opposite side of the island near a major hotel resulted in daylong closures.
Last Wednesday, a 20-year-old German tourist snorkeling about 50 yards off the coast of Maui was attacked and had her arm severed by a shark.
The incident led to a frantic rescue by two surfers who witnessed the attack. Jana Witteropp remained in serious condition Monday.
“As soon as we stand on the beach, we heard this blood-curdling scream," Rick Moore, 57, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., told Associated Press. "We look out and there was blood everywhere in the white water around her."
Moore, who teaches physical education and health at Creekside High School in Irvine, said he swam out to the woman with another surfer. "About 10 feet from her, I saw her floating on her back, with no arm," he said. "It was completely severed from her body."
According to press reports, the woman gasped: “I’m dying. … I’m going to die.” To which her rescuer responded: “No you’re not. We’re going to get you to shore. We’re going to save you.”
Earlier this month, a California tourist was treated and released after suffering a bite to her torso. In April, another suffered lacerations to his right thigh as a result of a shark bite off the popular Maui tourist town of Kaanapali.
Tourists and residents throughout Hawaii are advised to avoid swimming or surfing alone, especially early or late in the day, when sharks might be on the reefs feeding.
Giesea, the Maui fire captain, said that although the attacks may have tourists and some lifeguards on edge, they are a fact of life on Hawaii.
“I heard guys talking about the attacks yesterday. They were thinking about going for a swim at an area beach,” he told The Times. “It didn’t stop them.
“I don’t get the impression that residents are freaked out about this. Some people are looking for an explanation, and maybe there is a reason to be found. But it also could be just chance you take swimming in waters you know have sharks in them.”
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