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DLNR issues rebuke of Maui shark attack ‘misinformation’

The Department of Land and Natural Resources today released additional information on last week’s presumed fatal shark attack off South Maui in response to “misinformation” in social media posts the agency says has exacerbated the family’s grief.

The body of a missing 60-year-old woman from Washington state who was snorkeling off Keawakapu Beach with her husband Dec. 8 has not been recovered. Officials have not released her identity.

“(The Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) concluded that this was a tragic accident. It’s unfortunate that this family’s grief is exacerbated not only by not having their loved one’s body recovered, but by misinformation which spread quickly on social media platforms, suggesting that this was something other than what it was,” DLNR said in a news release.

Based on eyewitness accounts, including from the woman’s husband, DOCARE classified her disappearance as “shark attack-fatal,” said the release, noting that the Maui Police Department report termed the disappearance as a “miscellaneous accident-fatal.”

An MPD spokesperson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today that the case is no longer being investigated.

Maui County Ocean Safety lifeguards, Maui Fire Department and emergency services personnel, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, searched for the missing snorkeler for two days without luck.

According to the DOCARE report, the woman’s husband told officers that he encountered an “aggressive” shark shortly after entering the water to snorkel about 50 yards from shore. He said he and his wife were not snorkeling side-by-side and that he could see her only “from time to time. As the shark continued to circle him he continued looking for his wife and thought that she might have been diving toward the ocean floor,” the report said.

The man said the shark swam off and he continued looking for his wife, popping his head out of the water and scanning the surface. “He did spot something in the distance and then the shark came back, and he could see something red around the shark’s gills. At that time, he said people on the beach began yelling at him to get out of the water because a shark was feeding in the area,” according to the DOCARE report.

“The husband’s statement is corroborated by an eyewitness on the beach who said he saw a large shark feeding on something in the water. Earlier he’d spotted the couple snorkeling and began looking for them to warn them, ‘when he saw the shark’s large mouth continuing to feed on something in the middle of the red cloud in the water.’ He continued yelling for the man to get out of the water but no longer was seeing the woman.”

DLNR goes on in the release to chastise those “who post misinformation and conspiracy theories anonymously to stop and think about how they’d react if they were in the same situation.”

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