Woman Snorkeling 100-Feet Off Coast Suffers ‘Serious’ Shark Bite, Multiple Beaches Close

by Caitlin Berard

On Saturday (September 3), a French woman vacationing in Maui decided to enjoy an afternoon of snorkeling in the nearby Paia Bay. But what began as a relaxing beach day turned into a harrowing ordeal. At around 4 p.m., the soothing sounds of the ocean were suddenly mixed with screams.

As bystanders turned to locate the source of the noise, they saw a woman struggling 100 feet from the shore, the water around her turning red. To the shock and horror of the other beachgoers, the French snorkeler had been bitten by a shark.

Brave witnesses wasted no time swimming out to the woman, bringing her back to the beach to await emergency services. “We had all the officers come, lifeguards, police department — asking that everyone stay out of the water,” Maui resident Cinthia Pacheco explained to Hawaii News Now.

As they waited for paramedics to arrive, the Maui residents performed basic first aid and said a prayer for the injured woman, hoping that she would make it out of the nightmarish shark encounter alive and well.

“I think my first reaction was really shocked and I just felt so bad for the person,” Pacheco continued. “We actually said a little prayer for her at the moment… It could’ve been one of us.”

Following the incident, officials closed three beaches in the area stretching from Baldwin Beach to Tavares Bay. They remained closed through Sunday but reopened today (September 5).

Local Shark Expert Warns Against Snorkeling in Murky Waters

Sharks are colorblind and have two major blind spots – in front of the snout and behind the head. That said, the natural predators actually have fantastic eyesight. As such, their favorite hunting grounds are murky waters.

Unlike their prey, sharks can see their surroundings in low light and murky water, making it easier for them to catch their chosen meal unawares. Because of this, shark experts advise against swimming or snorkeling in murky waters. It’s important to remember, however, that shark attacks are exceedingly rare.

As Sea Life Park Aquarist Supervisor Michelle Benedict explained, sharks don’t purposefully hunt humans. In the majority of shark bite scenarios, the shark takes a bite, realizes the blood in its mouth doesn’t taste of fish or seal, and swims away rather than finishing the meal.

“When a predator is pursuing a meal, oftentimes in the wild, they’ll grab at the first thing that they sense or see that could be a potential meal,” Benedict said. “In cases of accidental shark bites, often it’s just that case of mistaken identity.”

“Sharks and other animals in the ocean know you’re there long before you realize that they are there,” she continued. “When sharks bite humans, very rarely do they come back to finish off that meal. Because they realized their mistake and that’s not the flavor profile or the size of the item they thought they were getting.”