California men talk about rescuing Maui shark attack victim

Published: Aug. 16, 2013 at 1:42 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 19, 2013 at 5:06 PM HST
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WAILEA, Maui (HawaiiNewsNow) - The men who helped save a German tourist from a shark attack off Maui spoke out the day after their heroics.

One of the men, Rick Moore, a 57-year old high school teacher and pastor from Orange County, California, said he saw 20-year old Jana Witteropp shrieking in the water off White Rock beach, also known as Palauea beach.

He began to swim for her, despite her being approximately 75 yards out.

When he reached her, he saw that her entire right arm was severed at the shoulder.  He put his arm around her, and began swimming to shore.

"All she had hanging out on her right arm was a bone and she was in and out of saying these words 'I'm dying, I'm going to die' and I kept saying to her, no you're not.  We're going to get her to shore.  We're going to save you" Moore recalled.

Moore also said at one point he began praying out loud. When they finally reached shore, Moore's friend grabbed Witteropp and pulled her out of the water.

Nick Grisaffi, another California visitor from Laguna Beach, also came to assist Moore in getting Witteropp on shore. "I'm a water guy," he said. "I'm a water guy my whole life, and this has changed my thinking completely."

Witteropp then went in and out of consciousness, prompting another scare.

"As we started going up the trail, a police officer came and put a tourniquet," said Moore. "During that process she was fading away. She was going to die, and as she was fading away, we brought her up to the street. We're slapping her face trying to get her conscious and then I started doing artificial respiration with her to revive her."

Moore was successful, and Witteropp was transported to Maui Memorial Hospital.

Moore went to the hospital to see how she was doing.  A nurse there told him they were concerned that Witteropp may have brain damage due to a loss of oxygen to the brain.

He returned today to check in on her.  He told Hawaii News Now that she was on a respirator and was unresponsive.   He did say her friends said she has opened her eyes and was able to move her legs and remaining arm.

Meanwhile, experts said that it's impossible to prevent or predict shark attacks. "There's no foolproof way to know that you're never going to encounter a shark, or really any other animal went you go into the wild, and of course, every time we go and surf and snorkel we are entering the ocean environment, which is, in a sense, the wild," said Dr. Kevin Weng of the Pelagic Fisheries Research Program at the University of Hawaii.

Weng and other shark researchers also said there was no scientific reason why attacks occur close together, or why Maui has had more than half of the seven reported shark attacks on humans in Hawaii waters so far this year. "Keep flipping the coin. It'll happen. But when you average all of those flips over a long period of time, there's a 50-50 chance. So we might have a whole bunch of shark attacks some years, no sharks attacks in other years. It's very very hard to predict these extremely rare events."

Weng said it's best to go out into the ocean with others, and to be vigilant. One of Witteropp's rescuers said he'll be doing just that.

"I'll go in, but I will not go out any further than 40 yards, 50 yards right now," said Grisaffi.

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