Sharks hamper search for California man who vanished while surfing - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sharks hamper search for California man who vanished while surfing

Hank Foto Hank Foto

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email 

LANIAKEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fire rescue crews say tiger sharks are hampering their search for a missing surfer on Oahu's North Shore. They believe they spotted the California man's body off Papailoa Point Wednesday morning, but several sharks in the area prevented them from getting a closer look.

The fire department's chopper returned to the waters off Laniakea Beach at first light Wednesday for what authorities are calling a body recovery mission, not a rescue.

Lifeguards posted shark warning signs on the beach, but people continued to hit the surf without much hesitation.

"If the helicopter was hovering more off Laniakea, they probably see a lot of shark sightings," Hank Foto, surfer from Waialua, said. "But I didn't see it so I wasn't too worried about it."

A 35-year-old visitor from California vanished in these waters Tuesday afternoon. Fire officials say their crews may have first spotted the body at about 7:15 Tuesday night, but ocean conditions and increasing darkness hampered their efforts to get to it.

"Surf was rather large, about seven feet, four to seven feet, very windy," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said. "We spotted what might have been a body in the surf zone, which is a couple hundred yards off-shore in shallow water."

The warning signs went up after searchers say they saw three sharks around a body at about 7:30 Wednesday morning, about a quarter-mile off Papailoa Point. Papailoa is located between Laniakea and Haleiwa Beach Park.

"Large tiger sharks exhibiting agressive behavior," Seelig described. "Shortly after, they no longer were able to see the body, so we weren't able to put any divers in the water."

Surfers say, unfortunately, a tourist getting in trouble along the North Shore is nothing new.

"It happens all the time," Foto said. "People are really unaware of how crazy this ocean gets over here and so it's no surprise to me."

Ocean safety officials say they keep warning signs up for three hours and then re-assess the situation if it's simply a shark sighting. But because the sharks on Wednesday exhibited aggressive behavior, the signs will remain posted until noon Thursday.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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