Maui shark attack victim recounts close call

Published: Nov. 30, 2012 at 3:38 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2012 at 2:39 PM HST
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Thomas Kennedy in a hospital room hours after a shark bit his leg
Thomas Kennedy in a hospital room hours after a shark bit his leg

KIHEI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The bandage on Tom Kennedy's left leg covers a gash on his calf from a shark bite that caught him by surprise.

"Initially it didn't hurt so much. It was mostly just fear of a second attack," he said.

The 61-year-old visitor from Oregon was snorkeling with two others. They rode paddle boards to a spot more than 250 yards off the Kihei coastline.

Kennedy said he felt a tug and looked down to see his leg in the shark's mouth.

"It released me. So I started swimming as fast as I could. I would guess I was a still a hundred yards from my board," he said. "As I went further, I started to bleed. I could see a string of blood, which was my next concern."

Kennedy climbed on his paddle board. He and his companions got the attention of a crew from Wailea Canoe Club.

"People who were in a canoe were in the area, so they brought him in," eyewitness Ryan Suda said. "They said he was standup paddle boarding like a lot of people do. They'll standup paddle board out to an area and go snorkeling. I do that myself."

"We had very quick response. Police and EMT's were there right away," Kennedy said.

This is the fourth shark attack off Maui since October. On November 4, diver Marc Riglos was bitten on his right leg by a 15-foot tiger shark. In October, California visitor Mariko Haugen was injured fighting off a shark. Before that a tiger shark bit into Dave Peterson's paddle board.

After today's attack, Maui officials closed a two-mile section of shoreline.

Kennedy estimates the shark was 10 feet long. He described it to a shark expert.

"Based on my estimate of the size of the head and the coloration and the shape, his guess is it was a tiger shark," he said.

Kennedy said doctors at Maui Memorial Medical Center told him he's lucky the bite didn't do any serious damage.

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