UPDATE: No Sharks Spotted, Kiholo Bay Reopened
by Dave Smith
***Updated at 2 p.m.***
State officials were reopening the beach at Kiholo Bay this afternoon after an aerial search turned up no sign of the shark that attacked a surfer on Wednesday.
The Hawaii Fire Department’s Chopper 2 searched offshore waters from Kiholo Bay in North Kona to Spencer Beach Park in South Kohala, said Battalion Chief Gerald Kosaki. No sharks were spotted, Kosaki said.
According to a spokeswoman with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the 43-year-old man was surfing with a friend about 200 yards offshore at the north end of Kiholo Bay when he was bitten on the right forearm.
A worker at a private home called 911, she said.
The man was taken to North Hawaii Community Hospital for treatment by paramedics responding to the 5:10 p.m. call.
The surfer, who has not been identified, was transported last night from the Waimea hospital to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu.
Krista Anderson, communications coordinator for North Hawaii Community Hospital, said the man was in stable condition when transferred.
Earlier today Battalion Chief Ty Medeiros said the department’s Chopper 2 would be used to search the waters off the beach at 11 a.m. today to try to determine if the shark is still in the area.
According to the DLNR, the animal was believed to be a 15-foot tiger shark.
The state agency controls the Kiholo State Park Reserve which includes area around the bay except for some privately owned land and residences.
Darryl Oliveira, administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense, told Big Island Now that earlier today agents with the Department of Land and Natural Resources were allowing only local residents access to the shoreline area located between the 81- and 82-mile marker on Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway.
While shark attacks are more frequent on other Hawaiian islands – at least seven occurred last year in Maui County waters alone – there have been far fewer off Big Island shores.
There were attacks on the boards of two surfers in 2011 at the Lymans surf spot near Kailua-Kona, but neither surfer was injured.
On May 10, 2003, a 20-year-old Kamuela man swimming between Kahalu`u Beach and Magic Sands in Kona suffered injuries to his lower right leg after being attacked in eight feet of water. The shark was estimated to be six feet in length.
On Oct. 1, 1999, a 16-year-old boy surfing off the Old Kona Airport Park was bitten on his right arm.
According to a summary of shark attacks in the state compiled by George Balazs of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a man swimming from shore to a sailboat anchored off Kailua-Kona on April 15, 1987 was presumed to have been attacked by a shark after his swimming trunks were found bitten in half on the ocean’s bottom.
In 1981, a man disappeared while fishing from the shoreline in the Keaukaha area of Hilo. His leg was found seven days later wedged in rocks 150 yards offshore.
That same year, sharks temporarily hampered the retrieval of a body of a swimmer thought to have drowned off Hilo’s Honolii Pali. The report said about one-third of the body had been bitten off. At least four sharks were believed to be involved.
According to Balazs’ report, the most recent possible shark attack in the South Kohala area involved an elderly male who disappeared while fishing from shore. Divers found only a hand and a flashlight, although documentation of the incident was sketchy, the report said. The incident was believed to have occurred in 1979.
Previous Big Island shark attacks in the report include:
- A spearfisherman bitten on the arm by an 8-foot shark off Waimanu in August 1972.
- Parts of the body of an opihi picker washed into the sea at Hapuna Beach were found in April 1963.
- Also in April 1963, a surfer was bitten on the leg and foot off Awili in South Kona. A shark of between 12-feet and 15-feet in length was observed in the area.
- A shoreline fisherman swept out to sea was seen in a shark’s mouth off Laupahoehoe in June 1951.
- Mrs. Leonard Carlsmith was severely bitten in April 1926 while swimming from shore near the Hilo Yacht Club. Carlsmith told rescuers that the shark that had bitten her had a mouth three feet wide.
- In June 1886, two women fishing on the shore were washed into the ocean on the Hamakua coast. One woman was found with fatal bites while the body of the other was never found.
***Updated on June 19, 2013, to include a 2003 incident. Previously updated at 10:15 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2013 with information on the beach closure and history of shark attacks.***