KAANAPALI, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) - A vacation turned into a nightmare for a California family visiting Maui.
Authorities said Thomas Smiley, 65, was swimming about 60 yards from the shore near the Kaanapali Shores Resort Saturday, when he was bitten by a shark. First responders pulled him from the water and performed CPR, but they couldn’t revive him.
Dr. Gary Taxera was his best friend and knew him for more than 40 years. He says Smiley had just retired and was scheduled to fly home the next day.
“She (Smiley’s wife) said, ‘I have some bad news. Tom was attacked by a shark and he didn’t make it.’ I almost fell where I was standing and I actually had to sit down, take a breath and have her repeat it,” Taxera said. “I didn’t sleep much last night. I tried.”
Smiley was an optometrist from Granite Bay, Calif.
Taxera says Smiley regularly vacationed on Maui and was an avid water skier, scuba diver and race car driver. The two last spoke on the phone six days before he was fatally bitten by a shark.
“He was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing something in a place he loved, doing something that he was extremely comfortable and loved," Taxera said.
He says Smiley left an impact on everyone he encountered.
“He had a personality bigger than life in a really good way ... He was a good-hearted man and people who didn’t get to know him, really missed out,” Taxera said.
Smiley leaves behind a wife, three children and six grandchildren.
This was Hawaii’s sixth shark incident so far this year and the first deadly one since 2015, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.