Big Isle man
hospitalized after
shark bites his foot

"He bit my leg and didn't
let go for at least five seconds"

A 20-year-old Kamuela man was in stable condition yesterday after he was bitten by a shark off the Big Island's Kona Coast.

Koa Paulo was swimming yesterday morning with some friends in water about 8 feet deep and not far from shore, between Magic Sands Beach and Kahaluu Beach, when he felt a bite on his right foot.

"I knew it was a shark already," Paulo said by phone from Kona Hospital yesterday evening.

"He bit my leg and didn't let go for at least five seconds. I tried to swim away. Then he just let go."

"It was bleeding a lot," Paulo said, but he was able to get out of the water on his own. Paramedics bandaged the wound at the scene and then friends drove Paulo to the hospital, where he underwent surgery. No bones were broken, he said, but doctors put a cast on him to stabilize his foot while it heals.


"At first didn't hurt at all," he said. "Now it hurts like hell."

Paulo said he thinks the shark, which friends on the shore said was 6- to 7-feet long and dark gray, was a reef shark.

"I've seen a lot of sharks in the water, from diving and stuff. It had a real round face. It wasn't a tiger (shark)."

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources closed Kahaluu and Magic Sands Beach, also known as White Sands Beach and Disappearing Sands Beach, yesterday after the 11:45 a.m. attack, said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward. Signs were posted that there had been a shark sighting.

DLNR officials were to fly over the area this morning looking for sharks and assess whether to reopen the beach, Ward said.

Paulo said he hadn't been to the area before, but knew it as "a place where some of the kids go swimming."

The incident appears to be the first reported shark attack in the state this year. Since 1990 the recorded number of annual shark attacks in Hawaii has ranged from one to six, with six occurring last year and also in 1999. In 2002 there were three shark attacks on Maui, two on Oahu and one on Kauai. The six attacks in 1999 included two on Maui, one on Kauai and three on the Big Island.

"Some years there are more and some years there are less," Hawaii Shark Task Force spokesman Randy Honebrink said last year.


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