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Shark likely ate missing snorkeler, Hawaii officials say

A 6-8 foot Long-Fin Mako or Pelagic Thresher Shark. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Released)
December 21, 2022

A shark attack probably killed a Washington state woman who recently went missing while she and her husband were snorkeling in Hawaii, officials concluded after a day-long search.

The 60-year-old woman was last seen snorkeling with her husband on Dec. 8 at Keawakapu Beach in Maui County, according to a press release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The husband told authorities they weren’t snorkeling near each other, and he lost track of her about 50 yards from shore, according to the release. As an “aggressive” shark began circling him, he scanned the surface for her, but still couldn’t see her. He said he noticed something red around the shark’s gills, at which point people on the beach started yelling for him to get out of the water. 

One witness on the beach, who called 911, said he saw “the shark’s large mouth” feeding on something in a “red cloud in the water” at the same time that he could no longer see the woman, according to the release.

Authorities quit searching for the woman at noon the next day, Maui News reported, but remained empty handed. Searchers did spot a 10- to 12-foot-long tiger shark in the area, according to the New York Post.

While the Hawaii DLNR classified the incident as a “shark attack-fatal,” a parallel investigation by the Maui Police Department designated it a “miscellaneous accident-fatal,” according to the release. Its mysterious circumstances prompted speculation online that foul play was involved, leading the DLNR to emphasize that it “was a tragic accident.”

“It’s unfortunate that this family’s grief is exacerbated not only by not having their loved one’s body recovered, but by misinformation which spread quickly on social media platforms, suggesting that this was something other than what it was,” the release stated.

“DLNR is asking people who post misinformation and conspiracy theories anonymously to stop and think about how they’d react if they were in the same situation,” the press release continued. “Social media can either be a powerful tool for sharing information or a mouthpiece for tremendously hurtful and inaccurate comments directed toward people who are dealing with a tragedy.”