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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 1:40 p.m., Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Maui teen, 15, recounts shark attack

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — Just 15 minutes before an 8-foot-long shark shredded Nicolette "Nikky" Raleigh's lower right leg Monday in shallow water at Makena State Park, the 15-year-old Kihei girl and friends had joked about getting bitten by a shark.

"Lucky me," said Raleigh, speaking to reporters today at Maui Memorial Medical Center, where she is recuperating from a severe bite wound that ripped away the muscle and tissue in her right calf and severed a nerve.

Raleigh, her boyfriend, Shane Wilds, 17, and friend Jessy Larson, 15, had heard about last week's incident in which the shark-ravaged remains of a diver were found at a nearby diving site and other recent shark encounters along the South Maui coastline. They had even seen sharks in the water before while snorkeling and surfing, "but they never bothered me," Raleigh said.

This time, while standing in only a foot or two of water, a shark knocked Wilds off his feet and ripped into Raleigh's leg. At first she thought it was Larson horsing around. Then Raleigh she saw "a huge gray thing" and the animal's "round face." She kicked it with her left foot before the shark released its grip and swam off.

Raleigh said she looked down at her leg, which looked "very ugly." Larson pulled his friend out of the surf and Raleigh was carried to a picnic table, where she was helped by two nurses, a doctor and two firefighters who happened to be at the Makena park, which is also known as Big Beach.

"I thought it was a dream. It was real scary," Raleigh said.

Raleigh, an avid skateboarder and surfer who attends the Kihei Charter School, is scheduled for additional surgery tomorrow and said she was told to expect several months of rehabilitation.

Her mother and stepfather, Cathy and Ken Johnson, said Raleigh can move her right leg but may require a nerve graft.

Today, the shoreline from Makena to La Perouse remained closed — normal protocol in the aftermath of a shark attack. Russell Sparks of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said no sharks had been sighted in the area today.

On Friday, the partial remains of diver Anthony Moore, 45, of San Jose, Calif., were found at a diving spot known as "Five Graves." An autopsy indicated Moore likely died before his body was bitten by sharks. Moore swam out alone from Makena Landing on Thursday afternoon and was reported missing by his wife when he failed to return.

On Dec. 21, a San Diego man lost part of his left hand when he was bitten by a shark while swimming several hundred yards off Keawakapu Beach in Kihei. On Feb. 1, a kayaker reported being bumped by a large shark about a mile off Makena State Park.

In 2005, there were five shark attacks in Hawai'i, four off Maui and one off O'ahu.

The last fatal shark attack in the Islands occurred April 7, 2004, when a surfer was killed off Kahana in West Maui.