Shark attack during surf competition turns fatal in Hawaii


Courtesy DLNR

HONOLUA BAY, Hawaii (KHON2) — The surfer who was attacked by a shark on Dec. 8 off of Maui has died, according to Maui Memorial Medical Center.

The 56-year-old Lahaina man was attacked in Honolua Bay as he was paddling out. The Maui Pro Surf Competition was suspended just after the attack.

Fatal shark attacks in Hawaii are rare, according to local shark expert Dr. Kim Holland.

“It’s very unusual. Most attacks don’t result in people dying, fortunately,” said Dr. Holland. “So this is a terrible turn of events.”

Dr. Holland has been studying sharks in Hawaiian waters for decades as part of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Marine Biology. He says humans are not a part of the typical shark diet, and in almost every shark attack case the shark mistakes the person for a turtle.

“I think that’s reflected in part the fact that you don’t normally see an animal just continue to attack its victim,” Dr. Holland said. “After the first bite it seems that they realize ‘this is not what I’m after’ and go away. Unfortunately for the victim that’s still a serious situation.”

He says most fatalities and serious injuries are the result of shock and blood loss. He also says the death rate from these incidents has gone down over the years because ocean safety officials and medical professionals are getting better at responding to the resulting injuries.

Dr. Holland says that while they can be very frightening, shark incidents are still very rare in Hawaiian waters.

“It’s amazing how few attacks we have in Hawaii given how water-oriented we are,” Dr. Holland said.

The World Surf League announced there will be no competition at the Maui Pro on Tuesday, Dec. 8, following a shark attack at Honolua Bay.

A man, reported to be 50-60 years-old, was paddling out from the old ramp, according to Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), when he had an encounter with a shark. He was taken to the hospital and admitted for surgery. Maui Memorial Medical Center said the man is in stable condition following surgery. The man was not part of the Maui Pro event.

Shark warning signs are up on either side of Honolua Bay and will remain posted until at least Noon on Wednesday.

According to MFD, the victim was already on shore and aid was being rendered when their personnel arrived on scene.

The Maui Pro is on hold until further notice.

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