KAILUA-KONA — The 26-year-old woman bitten by a shark Tuesday in Kealakekua Bay has been released from the hospital in good condition, a Kona Community Hospital spokeswoman said Friday.
The woman, who had been swimming with dolphins at the time, was taken to the hospital shortly after the 8 a.m. attack, which prompted officials to close the bay.
It was reopened Wednesday after searches yielded no additional sightings.
“There was a state of collective shock I think on the beach when it happened,” said Lucy Dean, a visitor from Australia who had been swimming in the bay that morning and witnessed the incident.
Dean, who was on the beach, saw a flash of gray appear around the woman who was swimming in the surf, and then heard her scream.
“I think at that moment I didn’t want to believe that it was a shark,” Dean said. “It felt helpless up on the rocks because of the girl’s position in the water. The waves were breaking quite heavily onto the rocks and she was still able to swim and it seemed like she would get to the shore faster than I would be able to get to her.”
Dean and other beachgoers assisted the woman out of the water as she reached closer to shore. Waves, Dean said, broke atop her as she crawled out. By that time, medics had been called and arrived a short time later.
The victim, a visitor to the island, was taken in serious condition by medics to Kona Community Hospital. She suffered flesh wounds to her lower back and right hip area. Later Tuesday she was upgraded to stable.
The woman has declined interview requests, but thanked the people who helped her on the beach, as well as the medical professionals, in an open letter to the community.
The Department of Lands and Natural Resources said, based on the injuries, it’s believed that a reef shark was responsible. A tiger shark had been spotted in the bay at the time of the attack, but those sightings are not uncommon at the popular South Kona swimming spot.
It marked the ninth shark encounter reported by state officials this year, including one that was fatal.
A 65-year-old man from California died after a shark bit him while he was swimming off a Maui beach park in May. Last week, a surfer in turbid water off Oahu’s west coast escaped injuries when a shark chomped on his surfboard.
On the Big Island alone, it was at least the third shark encounter this year.