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forwarded by AAF Correspondent: Jim Morris

Honolulu Star-Bulletin Online

Officials close Maui shark- attack site
The Maui woman who was attacked near Kaanapali is in guarded condition after surgery

Saturday, March 6, 1999

By Gary Kubota Star-Bulletin

KAANAPALI, Maui -- Bruce C. Brown remembers treading water with girlfriend Robyne Knutson while they were looking for whales about 300 yards off Whalers Village in Kaanapali. Then he heard her scream, and her body went into a floating position. "I saw a shark's head clamped on her right upper thigh," he said. Brown said he kicked the shark hard and thought he didn't kick hard enough, but the shark let go and disappeared. Brown helped Knutson toward shore. Knutson, a Haiku resident and student studying massage therapy, was in guarded condition this morning after undergoing surgery yesterday at Maui Memorial Hospital. Meanwhile, the attack between 11 and 11:30 a.m. prompted state officials to post signs warning beach-goers to stay out of the water along a one-mile section of the resort. The warning is expected to remain in effect at least through sunset today. Biologists riding in a helicopter over the attack site said they saw whales, including a whale cow that may have been injured. State enforcement official Gary Moniz said people should avoid being in the water near injured whales because they tend to attract predators, including sharks. Last October, a tiger shark bumped a visitor during a diving tour south of Lahaina, in waters off Olowalu and near an area where a woman was killed by a shark several years ago. The visitor was not injured. Brown said the shark took out a "big chunk" of Knutson's thigh and she was bleeding profusely as he swam, pulling her toward shore. He said his main thought was to get back to the beach. Knutson passed out along the way and he was shouting for help when the crew on the catamaran Gemini came to the rescue. "They saved her life," Brown said. Gemini Capt. J. Dushane said the crew was getting ready to load a private charter tour when he saw a man calling for help about 600 to 800 yards away. "I picked up the binoculars. That's when we noticed he was dragging this girl back toward the beach," Dushane said. "The side of the leg was gone. There was just this big gaping hole. It was unfortunate." Gemini Operations Manager Steve Dettwiler said fire rescue officials were called and were waiting on the beach when the crew arrived on shore. "It's scary," Dettwiler said. "It's such a freak accident. In 20 years, we've never seen anything like this before." Along the Kaanapali resort, people were sunbathing on the white sand beaches after the warning signs were posted, but no one was in the water. New Mexico resident Tim Garcia said he's been to Maui previously and had not heard of any shark attacks until now. Garcia said he was disappointed he couldn't swim and planned to go into the ocean later during his vacation. Operators of ocean tours and activities say business was slow because of the warning. People were renting cabanas and spending more time by hotel swimming pools, they said. "They've been asking us a lot of questions about the shark attack," said tour agent Julie Arestad. "We've been telling people it's better to be safe than sorry."

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