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Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Monday, September 9, 2002


Surfer attacked by tiger
shark did not report it


Question: On Aug. 28 a story was going around that a surfer had been attacked by an 11- to 12-foot tiger shark at the popular surf spot "Point's" at Kewalo Basin. I did not hear anything in the news about this incident and e-mailed the papers the next day, asking if they had anything on it. On Aug. 30 a story ran in both daily papers, but the incident was made to appear as a case of "mistaken identity," and no action was to be taken. About 10 years ago, a surfer was attacked at Laniakea. The state Department of Land & Natural Resources took action then, and the public was properly notified. Additional attacks on surfers occurred after that, and the public was warned. Hence my concern. Does someone have to get killed in order for some action to be taken? If I heard that a shark attack occurred in an area that I surf/swim in, I would be leery of entering the water. Why did the state not feel a warning was warranted?

Answer: Yours is "a valid concern," said Randy Honebrink, spokesman for the DLNR's advisory Shark Task Force, which coordinates responses to shark attacks.

In this case, it wasn't that the state didn't feel a warning wasn't needed. It was because "we weren't notified," he said. Neither were police or lifeguards.

Asked why, Honebrink said the 16-year-old victim "probably had other things on his mind. But nobody who was with him or around him at the time notified police. And that's usually how we find out, from the police."

Luckily, although a chunk was taken out of the teen's surfboard, he got away with a cut on his left foot.

Honebrink said the task force didn't find out about the attack until it was contacted the next day by KGMB-TV. "By the time we found out, the warning period that we would normally have followed was over," he said.

Ordinarily, when a person is bitten by a shark, "We get people out of the water and notify beach users in the area until after sundown" of the day of the attack, with assistance from police, ocean safety officials and enforcement officers within DLNR, Honebrink said. That would include posting signs.

That same procedure is followed beginning generally at first light the next day, usually until the middle of the day, Honebrink said.

"That's just being extra-cautious, because the shark is probably long gone shortly after the person is bit," he said.

If you see someone attacked by a shark or if a shark is demonstrating aggressive behavior, notify police immediately. You don't have to do it if you just spot a shark swimming in the water, Honebrink said, noting that people who regularly surf off Kewalo know that sharks are frequently in the area.

Mahalo

To the crew and passengers for all their help and cooperation when I became very ill on July 25 aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 932. Special thanks to two nurses and retired paramedic Dino Firmin. He stayed with me and monitored my vitals until we landed and hour and a half later. My husband and I are very grateful to all. After five days in the hospital, I was released to recuperate a few days prior to flying home and am now recovering nicely.
-- E. Park

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