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Maui police identify Kihei woman apparently killed by shark

    Shark warning signs were posted and the Department of Land and Natural Resources closed "Big Beach" at Makena State Park and other shoreline access points to La Perouse Bay in South Maui.
    Ocean Safety crews on Maui used rescue watercraft to clear the water of swimmers along the South Maui shoreline from La Perouse Bay to M?kena State Park after a fatal shark attack Wednesday.

Maui police have identified the 65-year-old Kihei woman who died of apparent shark attack Wednesday at Ahihi Kinau Bay as Margaret C. Cruse.

The cause of death is pending an autopsy, police said Thursday.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials posted shark warning signs and cleared the water from Big Beach to La Perouse Bay. They reopened the beaches along the 2-mile stretch at noon Thursday.

Cruse was snorkeling when she apparently was attacked by a shark — the third such fatality off south Maui in the past two years, Maui Fire Department officials said.

Maui Fire Department spokesman Edward Taomoto said the woman had upper torso injuries that suggested she was injured by a shark.

Snorkelers found her body floating face down before 9 a.m., about 200 yards from shore, Taomoto said. She was found near a popular surf spot known as “Dumps” near the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, an area south of Makena State Park.

The snorkelers brought her back to shore, and she died despite efforts by firefighters and paramedics to revive her.

Taomoto said the woman had been snorkeling with two friends, but was alone when she was found.

Officials said she was fatally injured near Kanahena Cove, a popular snorkeling spot inside the reserve.

Tiger sharks have been frequently detected off south Maui in preliminary data from a University of Hawaii study.

The two-year study was launched in 2013 following a cluster of shark-bite incidents around Maui in 2012 and 2013. The scientists leading the study were not available to comment Wednesday.

Data from the study that were released in November showed tiger sharks that had been tagged for the study were most frequently detected in coastal shelf habitats less than 600 feet deep — areas that are more common around Maui than around other Hawaiian Islands.

Carl Meyer, one of the study’s lead scientists, said in November that the sharks preferred the same depths around Oahu, but that the most frequented sites don’t line up with popular swimming and surfing sites on Oahu to the extent they do on Maui.

If an autopsy confirms a shark attack, Cruse’s death is this year’s first such death in Hawaii and the third in two years in waters off Makena.

>> On Aug. 14, 2013, a shark bit 20-year-old German visitor Jana Lutteropp, off Keawakapu Beach, severing her right arm. She died from her injuries a week later. 

>> On Dec. 2, 2013, Patrick A. Briney, 57, of Stevenson, Wash., was kayak fishing off Makena Landing when he was bitten on the right leg. He died from severe bleeding.

According to state data, there have been 91 shark incidents in the islands in the past 20 years: 43 for Maui, 18 for Oahu, 15 for Hawaii island, 12 for Kauai, two for Lanai and one for Molokai.

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