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An afternoon they won’t forget

An afternoon they won’t forget
Laguna Niguel resident Rick Moore, left, and Nicholas Grisaffi of Laguna Beach helped a girl to shore who had her arm bitten off by a shark in Maui in August.
(Don Leach, Coastline Pilot)

Every so often the image flashes through Nicholas Grisaffi’s mind.

The trigger can be a blond woman who looks like the one Grisaffi, a 61-year-old Laguna Beach man, and friend Rick Moore tried to help out of the ocean in Maui last month.


“That arm flashes at you,” Grisaffi said.

Moore and Grisaffi, a Tustin elementary school teacher, were planning to spend a relaxing day at White Rock beach, an area known for its snorkeling, on the late afternoon of Aug. 14.


The two arrived in the parking lot but Moore, a pastor and Irvine high school teacher, couldn’t find his underwater camera. He spent 10 minutes looking in the trunk of the car and in his bag, but couldn’t find it.

Moore, 57, and Grisaffi reached the beach and noticed snorkelers near some rocks.

Then a scream pierced the air.

“It was horrific screaming, the kind you don’t want to hear,” Grisaffi said. “She had blood around her.”


Moore hustled into the water while Grisaffi went to the car to call for help.

Moore reached the woman, 20-year-old Jana Lutteropp, in 2 minutes, about 80 yards from shore.

“She was on her back and had no [right] arm; it was completely severed from her body,” Moore said. “At first she said, ‘Please help, me I’m dying.’”

He noticed her foot had bite marks and she wasn’t wearing a snorkel or mask.


“The shark must have [shaken] her violently and knocked the snorkel and fins off,” Moore said.

Moore placed Lutteropp’s left arm around his neck and backstroked into shore, against a strong current, he said.

“I began to pray, ‘God help us, protect us,’” Moore said. “She was in such trauma so I said, ‘Give her peace.’”

Grisaffi gave Moore a break, taking Lutteropp from him and helping her onto shore.

“Rick has a really good stroke, I’m tracking them and not thinking about sharks,” Grisaffi said. “I’m thinking about what am I going to see and how am I going to react?

“I took her from him [Moore] and that’s when I saw [that her right arm was gone],” Grisaffi said. “I [braced] her body into my left chest. She was limp. At first, she was still coherent, looking at me, but was blue, pale.”

Grisaffi carried Lutteropp the remaining 20 yards into shore. He said seeing this woman reminded him of his daughter, who died at age 30 three years ago.

“All I could think about was saving her,” Grisaffi said of Lutteropp, who was visiting with friends from Germany. “She was a beautiful girl and there was no way I was letting her go. We prayed and asked people to pray for her.

“All the men on the beach were in shock. I yelled at the top of my lungs for someone to help me. Rick took his fins off and a guy brought a kayak to put her in. We kept her awake the best we could — [Moore] started CPR — until the [police] arrived.”

Grisaffi wore a white rash guard, but it didn’t have any red stains on it, indicating how much blood Lutteropp had lost.

Paramedics took Lutteropp to Maui Memorial Medical Center, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story.

Moore and Grisaffi received conflicting information about Lutteropp’s condition in the ensuing days, eventually learning from news reports that she diedAug. 21.

Grisaffi lives near Fisherman’s Cove in Laguna, which resembles White Rock beach, he said. He had trouble sleeping the first few days after the encounter.

“What you blocked out of your mind started to surface,” Grisaffi said. “I saw the arm all the time and heard screaming.”

He wanted to tell swimmers to get out of the water.

“It’s gotten better, much better,” Grisaffi said. “I’m not waking up and seeing her now.”

Grisaffi said he and Moore did what they could and Moore said, for him, compassion eclipsed any possible fear that he could become a shark attack victim.

“God gives me a heroic nature; it comes from Him,” Moore said. “I used to think, ‘What am I going to get out of it?’ And this was a stranger, so why would I do that? It’s compassion for people. Jesus said there’s no greater love than when a man gives his life for someone.”