Beaches set to open two days after shark attack

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Hapuna Beach and Waialea Bay remained closed Thursday, following a shark attack that severely injured the arm of a Kansas man.

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Hapuna Beach and Waialea Bay remained closed Thursday, following a shark attack that severely injured the arm of a Kansas man.

Hawaii County Fire Department overflights Thursday morning did not produce a sighting of the shark that attacked the snorkeler Wednesday.

But the aggressive nature of the animal and poor visibility because of wind chop prompted county officials to recommend the state keep the beaches off limits until 7 a.m. today.

Beaches were evacuated about lunchtime Wednesday when a 10- to 12-foot tiger shark inflicted severe bite wounds on the left forearm and thigh of a 58-year-old man from Overland Park, Kan., who was snorkeling with his family about 20 yards off a point popularly known as “Jump Rock” at the south end of Hapuna Beach.

The tiger continued to cruise the beach an hour after the attack.

“This was an unusual case where the shark went away and came back,” Special Operations Battalion Chief Gerald Kosaki said.

Under normal circumstances, the beaches would have opened at noon Thursday, shortly after the day’s last overflight.

While great whites generally are the stuff of overwrought Hollywood fare, the akamai know that tiger sharks are far more likely to be the culprit in unprovoked attacks on swimmers off the coasts of Hawaii.

However, the season for the animals to be making their presence known is winding down, with most sightings usually happening toward the end of the calendar year and into January, said Acting Battalion Chief Paul Austria.

“I was a little shocked to hear it was in the area this time of year,” Austria said.

The victim was treated Wednesday afternoon at North Hawaii Community Hospital and flown to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu in stable condition.

Officials said no further information was available on his identity or condition. However, a Kansas-based media outlet did identify the victim, attributing the information initially to West Hawaii Today, prompting the newspaper to contact the television station.

When contacted, the station said the information came from a Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesperson.

DLNR, subsequently contacted by West Hawaii Today, referred the newspaper to The Queen’s Medical Center for information.

Police do not generally identify shark attack survivors, a Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman said.

In an email to West Hawaii Today, visitor Kami Graham of Alaska gave a glimpse of the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack.

“It was so eerie to see everyone standing on water’s edge, not even letting their toes hit the water,” Graham said. “The lifeguards acted quickly. At one point, someone yelled that they needed ice, so we dug out the ice packs from our day bag. My dad brought them over.”

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“By this point, the helicopter had already arrived and was circling the shark. Tourists were yelling and pointing, and it was easy to see the shark in the waves. He was very large.”

Email Bret Yager at byager@westhawaiitoday.com.

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