Experts say tiger shark responsible for attack

The shark bit the back of Theresa Fernandez's surfboard.
The shark bit the back of Theresa Fernandez's surfboard.
Holualoa Bay
Holualoa Bay

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

KAILUA-KONA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Experts in Hawaii and Florida agree, the shark that attacked a surfer at Holualoa Bay Wednesday was a tiger shark about 10 feet in length. They say it was also a tiger that attacked a stand-up paddle boarder on Sunday, but they say it is "impossible to tell" if the same shark was responsible for both attacks.

"Initially I thought, wow, I just hit a turtle. It knocked me to the left of my board. It knocked my grandson to the right of my board," Alayna DeBina said Thursday while recounting her frightening experience Sunday. DeBina said she had been in the water on a stand-up paddle board with her 3 ½ year old grandson for less than a minute when a shark, not a turtle, bounced them from her board.

"I landed on the shark. It was here," she said motioning toward the ground, "and I was touching it with my hand trying to figure out what it was."

DeBina said she kicked at the shark and paddled her grandson back to shore.

Three days later Theresa Fernandez was surfing at the same spot when she too thought her board had been hit a turtle.

"Then I felt my board kind of get lurched forward and grabbed back and under and I ... I said, 'oh, this is not a turtle,'" Fernandez told Hawaii News Now.

The shark that bit the back of Fernandez's surfboard Wednesday left a clean bite pattern in the board. Randy Honebrink, a shark expert with the Department of Land and Natural Resources conferred with George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Florida. The two agree the bite on Fernandez's was made by a tiger measuring close to 10 feet long.

The shark that bit DeBina's paddle board Sunday did not leave a clean bite mark and therefore it is difficult to estimate the shark's size. Honebrink, Aquatic Education Coordinator for the DLNR, told Hawaii News Now "it is definitely not 16 feet" as had been reported by some media outlets and was probably closer to ten feet in length. That is the same size as the shark that went after DeBina.

Honebrink said because the marks left by Sunday's attack are not distinctive it is impossible to compare the marks in the two incidents to determine if the same shark is responsible for both attacks. He said it is "unlikely it is the same shark, but impossible to tell." Honebrink admits it is a "huge coincidence" if indeed two attacks by different sharks happened at the same spot within 4 days, especially since there has never been a recorded shark attack at Holualoa Bay before.

"I hope that they were only (one) because it is a real scary thing to think there are two aggressive sharks out here on the same bay trying to eat surf boards. But I don't really know if we'll ever know the answer to that question," DeBina added.

Both women say they will be back in the ocean soon.

"Don't be afraid to get back in the water, because, number one, this is their home, not ours," DeBina said.

"The only thing that's stopping me from surfing is the fact that I need a board, so I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen," Fernandez said.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.