KEALAKEKUA BAY — A 26-year-old woman bitten in an apparent shark attack this morning at Kealakekua Bay is now listed in stable condition.
The woman, identified as a visitor, was swimming in waters about 50 to 100 feet offshore on the Napoopoo side of the bay about 8:15 a.m. when she was apparently bitten by a shark, Hawaii Fire Department officials at the told West Hawaii Today. The woman was able to get out of the water on her own and walk, with some assistance of bystanders, to medics.
She suffered flesh wounds to her lower back and right hip area and was taken to Kona Community Hospital in serious condition.
Her condition has since been upgraded to stable condition, according to Judy Donovan, Kona Community Hospital spokeswoman.
“She has requested privacy for today and this evening,” Donovan said around 2:30 p.m.
After the apparent attack, the bay was immediately closed, including Manini Beach. Ocean safety officials used a Jet Ski to get snorkelers, paddleboarders and kayakers out of the water.
Seventeen people who had kayaked to the Kaawaloa Flats near the Captain Cook Monument and became stranded because of the reported attack had to be shuttled via an HFD Jet Ski to Napoopoo Landing. Their kayaks were also towed in.
After the incident, Hawaii County’s Chopper 1 performed an aerial survey of the area and spotted a 10-foot tiger in the bay. However, officials said that based on the injuries the woman suffered, they believe it was not a tiger shark, but possibly a reef shark.
The Hawaii Police Department said a witness described the shark as having a gray tip.
Officials also noted that snorkelers in the bay have reported seeing more sharks in the area. They speculate it could be related to dolphins giving birth in the area.
Kealakekua Bay will remain closed for at least 24 hours, per standard protocol. Shark warning signs are being posted.
Chopper 1 will do another aerial survey about 11 a.m. Wednesday to determine whether the beach can be reopened, fire officials said.
Colin Cornforth of Captain Zodiac Raft and Snorkel Adventures said the company has changed its itinerary today in the wake of the incident. He noted that the reported attack was at the “very far south side of the bay,” and not in front of Captain Cook monument.
“We as a company diverted our trips today. We’re looking into alternative trips,” said Cornforth. “We wanted to make sure people know that no one was attacked in front of Captain Cook’s monument, which is a popular snorkeling area.”
Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is located in South Kona. It is an important site in Hawaii’s history as the location where the first extensive contact between Hawaiians and Westerners took place with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1779, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.