Home Emergency Management News Rare Shark Attack Kills Lone Swimmer off Coast of Maui
Rare Shark Attack Kills Lone Swimmer off Coast of Maui

Rare Shark Attack Kills Lone Swimmer off Coast of Maui


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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

A shark attack on a swimmer is extremely rare; in fact, the odds are around one in 11.5 million.

“You have a better chance of dying from a bee sting, a dog or snake bite, or lightning than from a shark attack,” says the Florida Museum of Natural History. The yearly worldwide average of “unprovoked shark attacks on humans is 80, resulting in about 6 deaths.”

Dr. Thomas Smiley was attacked and killed by a shark on Saturday, May 25, while he was swimming in Maui, Hawaii News Now reported.

Smiley, a 65-year-old recently retired optometrist from Granite Bay, California, was about 60 yards offshore near the Kaanapali Shores Resort when he was attacked. Rescuers pulled Smiley to shore and began CPR, Los Angeles television station KTLA 5 reported.

Man Pronounced Dead after Rescuers Pull Him from the Water

Witness Allison Keller told KTLA that Smiley appeared to be unconscious when he was pulled from the water. “As we got closer, I saw some blood on his stomach and then I got looking a little bit more, and his wrist — it looked like the skin on his wrist was just torn off,” she said. “And then I got looking closer, and his entire left leg from his knee down was just missing.”

Smiley was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shark Attack Is Third This Year

Smiley’s attack was at least the third shark attack and first fatality in Hawaii this year, according to CNN. In February, authorities closed Hanalei Bay on Kauai after a shark attacked a surfer, and in April, another 65-year-old tourist from California was attacked off the big island of Hawaii.

Good Tips to Follow When You’re Swimming Where Sharks Might Be Present

The Florida Museum offers these tips “to decrease the already small chance of becoming a victim” of a shark attack:

1. Always swim in a group. Sharks most often attack lone individuals.

2. Don’t wander too far from shore. Doing so isolates you and places you away from assistance.

3. Avoid the water at night, dawn or dusk. Many sharks are most active at these times and are better able to find you than you are to see them.

4. Don’t enter the water if you are bleeding. Sharks can smell and taste blood, and they can trace it back to its source.

5. Don’t wear shiny jewelry. The reflected light looks like shining fish scales.

6. Don’t go into waters containing sewage. Sewage attracts bait fishes, which in turn attract sharks.

7. Avoid waters being fished and those with lots of bait fishes. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such activities.

8. Don’t enter the water if sharks are present. Leave immediately if sharks are seen.

9. Avoid an uneven tan and brightly colored clothing. Sharks see contrast particularly well, so use extra caution when waters are cloudy.

10. Don’t splash a lot. Also, keep pets out of the water. Erratic movements can attract sharks.

11. Use care near sandbars or steep drop-offs. These are favorite hangouts for sharks.

12. Don’t relax just because porpoises are nearby. Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks. Both often eat the same foods.

13. Don’t try to touch a shark if you see one!

14. If you’re attacked by a shark, the general rule is “Do whatever it takes to get away!” Some people have successfully chosen to be aggressive, others passive. Some yelled underwater, others blew bubbles.

Another sign of impending trouble is when a shark circles and actually bumps its victim with its head or body before biting. The shark may attack repeatedly and cause serious injury or death.

As the museum notes, “Sharks are blessed with outstanding senses of smell, taste, hearing, and sight; the ability to detect minute changes in water pressure and electromagnetic fields; and other attributes that make them nearly invincible in the sea.” Yet they are quite vulnerable to a baited hook and are easily caught.

Some Shark Species Face Extinction

In many areas of the world, sharks are seriously over-fished and some species are even threatened with extinction. Certain species -- such as the white, sand tiger, whale and basking sharks -- have received special governmental protection in some countries.

No such government protection, however, is afforded to humans. They must rely on their brains and pay attention to warning signs posted on the shores where sharks might be present.

David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."