GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kyle Gruen survived a shark attack in south Maui Saturday. At right is Gruen's fraternal twin, Jeff.
Shark attack can't stop visitor from being buddy's best man
KIHEI, Maui » Canadian visitor Kyle Gruen was swimming 30 to 40 feet from a rocky point in south Maui and looking at fish when he felt the teeth of a shark clamping down on his left hand and leg.
"I spun around and got my foot to push off it," said Gruen, 29, a former lifeguard and an operations manager at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.
"I just wanted to get out as soon as possible. ... I was just swimming as fast as I could and screaming."
The shark attack that occurred at about 1 p.m. Saturday at Kamaole Beach Park II left Gruen with two cut tendons in his hand and gashes and puncture wounds on the left side of his upper leg, one very close to a major artery and an inch from his groin, he said.
But the injuries were not about to keep him from his best friend's wedding, which was held near the ocean on Monday night, shortly after he underwent surgery.
Two days earlier, several people, including a paramedic on vacation, helped to carry him from the water.
Gruen saw the shark, which had a purple top and gray sides, moving away from him after the biting.
He said he doesn't know whether it was a reef shark or tiger shark, although many people have said it was a tiger shark.
He just remembers that "it was a pretty big shark."
Fire rescue officials patrolling the coastline about 30 minutes after the attack saw an 8- to 10-foot-long shark swimming in waters outside the Cove Park area, about a half-mile north of Kamaole II.
On Monday, Gruen met his obligations as the best man at a college friend's wedding.
So far, the wedding has been the best part of his trip.
"It was really good to be there for my friend and his wife," he said. "The whole thing worked out really well."
He said he considered himself lucky to have had good medical support after the injury.
A plastic surgeon who specializes in hands was able to sew together the tendons, and Gruen hopes to have full use of his limbs again.
"The prognosis is pretty good," said Gruen, resting next to a crutch on the lawn near a condominium yesterday. "It all worked out really well. ... All the people have been great around here."
During his short stay at Maui Memorial Medical Center, he had a visit from Maui resident Nicolette Raleigh, who was bitten on the calf by a shark -- also in south Maui earlier this year.
Gruen said Raleigh gave him a bracelet and said, "I know what you're going through and you're going to be OK."