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Shark bites surfer at Hanalei Bay on Sunday

HANALEI — The first confirmed shark attack of the year on Kaua‘i was reported on Sunday afternoon after a surfer’s leg was bitten by a large shark at Hanalei Bay.

A 50-year-old male from Kilauea was reported by the County of Kaua‘i to have been surfing at “the bowl,” a popular surf spot located roughly 200 yards from the Hanalei Pier, when an unknown type of shark bit him in the leg.

Fire Chief Michael Gibson spoke to The Garden Island about the incident on Monday afternoon.

He stated the shark bit the back of the calf and thigh area of one of the surfer’s legs, and two nearby 17-year-old surfers saw the man in trouble and brought him to shore.

After getting him to shore, they notified lifeguards and an off-duty EMT used a tourniquet to apply pressure to his leg and stop the flow of blood.

Firefighters from Hanalei Station and American Medical Response medics came to assist with the situation. The surfer was then transported to Wilcox Medical Center.

The county has stated the injuries were non-life threatening, but Gibson did not know whether the man was still in the hospital as of Monday afternoon.

“From all indications, this is going to be a survivable incident,” he stated.

Signs warning people of a shark sighting and advising people not to swim were posted on all beaches along Hanalei Bay on Sunday afternoon, and lifeguards were also reported to have been in the area warning people to stay out of the water.

“They’ve been monitoring it all day today,” said Gibson, noting lifeguards are using binoculars from the shore to look for signs of a possible shark.

A rescue watercraft patroller was in the water on a Jet Ski looking for signs of sharks or other marine life in the area.

“I just spoke with him a few minutes ago, there’s been no shark sighting,” said Gibson at around 3:30 p.m. on Monday.

Gibson reminded people that we are visitors in the ocean, advising swimmers to be cautious and check in with lifeguards at beaches before entering the water.

He noted that “it’s been a while” since someone was bitten by a shark on the island.

“When we hear about it, we realize that it can happen,” Gibson said.

There have been a total of 187 unprovoked shark attacks in Hawai‘i since 1837, according to data from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File.

According to the data, Hawai‘i has the second-highest number of confirmed unprovoked attacks in the country, behind Florida with 912.

The last confirmed shark incident in the state occurred about 50 yards from the shore of Ku’au Bay in Maui on Oct. 2, when a 10-12 foot Galapagos shark bit the tail of someone’s surfboard. No injuries were reported during that incident.

The last person confirmed to have suffered injuries from a shark attack in the state was on April 9, when surfer Mike Moritas lost his foot on Oahu’s South Shore, after being attacked by an 8-10 foot tiger shark.

County official Alden Alayvilla told The Garden Island that shark sighting signs were pulled down at about 4:15 p.m. on Monday.

But aside from shark warnings, the county is advising the public to stay out of the water during a high surf warning, which is expected to be in effect from 6 a.m. on Tuesday to 6 p.m. on Wednesday for both Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

“But (Ocean Safety Bureau) personnel is advising that high surf is building up,” said Alayvilla in an email response.

Officials reported that surf will be between 25 to 35 feet along north-facing shores and 18 to 24 feet along west-facing shores on Tuesday.

Entering the water in these areas during the High Surf Warning is very hazardous and could cause serious injury or death, the county said. Beachgoers are also advised to use extreme caution, as large breaking waves could make it dangerous for those standing along the shoreline.

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Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or egrunwald@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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