Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:25 a.m., Friday, October 31, 2003

Teen surfer loses arm in Kaua'i shark attack

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

Recent shark attacks


Oct. 5, Kihei, Maui — A woman was bitten while swimming off Cove Park near a fishing net, suffering two deep, half-inch lacerations to her right knee and other scrapes.

June 24, Makua — A man snorkeling with dolphins was bitten on his right foot.

May 10, Kailua-Kona — A man suffered multiple cuts and other injuries to his right lower calf down to his heel after being attacked while swimming in calm waters.


Nov. 17, Honokawai, Maui — A woman was bitten around her right shoulder and nearly lost her right hand in an attack near Ka‘anapali.

Oct. 30, Kihei — A woman swimming in turbid water was bitten on the left foot.

Sept. 27, Kahala — A surfer escaped injury when bumped by a tiger shark that bit the board.

Sept. 16, Princeville, Kaua‘i — A bodyboarder was uninjured, spotting a shark fin just before the board is ripped away.

Aug. 28, Kewalo — A surfer was bitten on the left foot while diving under a wave.

June 11, Anini Beach, Kaua‘i — A surfer was uninjured after a shark approached from behind and bit the side of the board.

March 25, Brennecke Beach, Kaua‘i — A teenager lost his left foot after an attack in murky waters.

Jan. 1, Olowalu, Maui — A snorkeler was bitten on the buttocks by a tiger shark observed before and after the attack in clear water.

LIHU'E, Kaua'i—A large shark on Kaua‘i’s north shore attacked 13-year-old surfing champion Bethany Hamilton, today, tearing off most of her left arm. The girl was surfing at the western break of Tunnels Reef at 7:30 a.m.

A friend's father used a surfboard leash to stop the bleeding as they helped her to shore. She was conscious on the beach, and was taken by ambulance to Wilcox Hospital in Lihu‘e.

Her family was with her at the hospital and issued this statement:

"Bethany and her best friend Alana Blanchard, age 13, were out surfing when the attack occurred.

"Alana's father, Holt Blanchard, was surfing with the girls and immediately applied a tourniquet using a surf leash. Bethany's mother, Cheri Hamilton, attributes Holt's quick action to saving her daughter's life."

The statement said she lost her arm just below the shoulder. The family said Bethany is expected to recover and asked for prayers for their daughter.

Hamilton, of Kilauea, Kaua‘i, is an accomplished junior girls surfer who has won local competitions and placed in national surfing competition.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob Kaden said witnesses told firefighters that the victim was lying on her board in clear water when the shark attacked. There was a single bite, and then the shark disappeared.

“There was no warning,” he said.

Lifeguards closed the beaches from Ke‘e to Wainiha at least until 9 a.m. tomorrow, said county public information officer Cyndi Ozaki.

Kaden said firefighters and lifeguards were using jet skis and a fire department rescue boat to search the area in hopes of finding the girl’s arm.

Kaden said he did not have witness reports indicating the size or species of shark, but he said one Hanalei firefighter guessed from the damage to the surfboard that it might have been in the 10 to 12-foot range.

This is the fourth case in 20 years in which a Kaua‘i surfer has had a limb amputated by a shark. Three previous cases involved boogie boarders. Three of the cases, including Hamilton's, occurred in October. The attacks are widely spread—on the west and south sides of the island and two on the north shore.

Joe Thomson was body boarding off Princeville on Oct. 18, 1985, when a shark took off his right forearm as it bit a chunk out of the corner of his board.

Michael Coots lost the lower portion of his right leg Oct. 28, 1997, while body boarding at Kaiokapua or Major's Bay off the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

And Hokuanu Aki lost his left foot March 25, 2002, while body boarding at Po‘ipu.

Hamilton, of Kilauea, Kaua‘i, is home-schooled and an accomplished junior girls surfer who has won local competitions and placed in national surfing events.

In May, she beat older surfers to win the girls/women’s division at the Local Motion/Ezekiel Surf Into Summer contest at Ala Moana. A month later, she hit perfect 10s from judges on one wave in her heat at the Seventh Annual Wahine Surf Classic at Queens Beach.

This is the fourth shark attack this year, said Randy Honebrink, a spokesman for the state Shark Task Force.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-7825.