Shark attacks Maui visitor
Authorities close South Maui beaches after the man's hand is bitten
WAILUKU » All Jonathan Genant saw was a shark's mouth with razor-sharp teeth coming from below in waters about 400 yards off South Maui.
"His mouth was huge, long, gigantic," said Genant, 29, a San Diego resident and former triathlete who was swimming at about 11:30 a.m. yesterday off the southern end of Keawakapu Beach.
"I heard a break, pretty much, and it was really crisp, you know, quick, very powerful."
The sound was the shark's mouth clamping down on his left hand and cutting away Genant's pinkie finger, the top portion of his ring finger and the side of his palm. He underwent surgery at Maui Memorial Medical Center and was reported in stable condition.
GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
San Diego resident Jonathan Genant recuperated yesterday in an emergency room hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center after surviving a shark attack earlier in the day.
Authorities posted warning signs yesterday and closed the beaches within a 1-mile stretch in either direction from Polo Beach to Kamaole Beach Park III.
State aquatics education official Russell Sparks said a county helicopter crew conducting aerial surveillance saw a 12-foot tiger shark swimming in the area yesterday.
Randy Honebrink, a state Department of Land and Natural Resources official who helps to coordinate responses to shark attack incidents, said authorities will reassess the condition of the ocean today and might reopen the beaches as early as noon.
"Sharks move around so much that whatever shark did that is probably long gone anyway," he said.
Genant said he saw the shark's white stomach and gray surface and initially thought it was a great while shark because of its large size.
But he said after talking with county lifeguards, he learned that tiger sharks are also large.
Genant said he was visiting Maui with his family, including his father and mother, and has usually visited the Hawaiian Islands every year since he was in grade school.
"I've been swimming that stretch every year, ever since I've come to Maui. I had no problems," he said.
Genant said after swimming about a mile in the Kihei direction, he was on his return route going toward Wailea when the shark attacked him off Keawakapu Beach.
"I'm trying to back off a bit. ... I had my hands out in front of me. I hadn't really tried to take a strike at it or anything. Its mouth was so big there was no way to escape it. It was going to take a piece of me somewhere or another. ... It just snapped at me."
From his emergency room hospital bed with left hand bandaged, Genant gestured with his arms to show the shark's mouth was about 3 to 4 feet wide.
Genant said his left hand was bleeding, and he gripped his wrist with his other hand to slow the flow of blood, as he began to swim on his back to shore.
He said for a moment, he could not believe he had been attacked by a shark.
"The first thing that crossed my mind was when was I going to wake up. I thought, maybe this is a dream. I thought, I can't believe this is really happening."
Genant said he then felt frantic and wondered if the shark would return and strike again.
He said he yelled for help and swam about two-thirds of the way into shore before surfers and boogie boarders were able to come to his assistance.
"I just feel lucky to make it back on the beach," he said.
Genant said at first he also felt frustrated and upset, asking why the shark chose to attack him.
"But then it did spare my life, so I was grateful in that sense," he said.
Genant, co-founder of the Internet partnership Better Deal LLC, said he uses his hands to operate a computer keyboard.
But he said he is right-handed, and at least the brunt of the shark attack was upon his left hand.
"It's the best place it could have taken me. ... I do feel lucky," he said.
STAR-BULLETIN / MAY 2005
Steven Hoyt points out to where a shark attacked him off Kuau, Maui, last year as he holds up the surfboard with tooth marks.
LOOKING BACK AT RECENT SHARK ATTACKS
There were five shark attacks recorded for 2005 in Hawaii, compared with four in 2004, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
» Feb. 16:
A shark bit surfer Greg Long's surfboard 40 yards off Sunset Beach.
» May 2: A shark bit surfer Scott Hoyt's surfboard 70 yards off Kuau, Maui.
» May 14: A shark bit a kayak about a half-mile off North Kihei in South Maui.
» Oct. 13: A shark bit surfer Clayton Sado's surfboard 100 yards off Honokowai in North Maui.
» Dec. 22: A shark bit the hand of swimmer Jonathan Genant in South Maui.
» March 16:
A shark bit a surfer's board 75 feet off Kalihiwai, Kauai.
» March 24: A snorkeler received a laceration to her left foot in Punaluu.
» April 7: Surfer Willis McInnis received fatal wounds to his right leg at Kahana in West Maui.
» Oct. 9: Spearfisher Davy Sanada received lacerations to the face at Pukoo, Molokai.