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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 2, 2006

Shark attacks force delay in swim event

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui Fears generated by recent shark incidents off South Maui have led organizers of Sunday's "Swim For Your Heart" ocean swim to postpone the event until March 26.

Janet Renner of the Valley Isle Masters Swim Club said the expected field of 80 participants for the one-mile event off Wailea likely would have been cut in half, based on phone calls she has received from worried swimmers. Since the event is a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association, Renner said a decision was made to reschedule the swim to ensure higher participation and to ease some of the concerns about the shark attacks.

"We wanted to err on the side of caution and let things chill for a couple weeks," she said.

On Monday, a 15-year-old Kihei girl was bitten on the right calf while playing in a foot or two of water at Makena State Park. Beaches in the area reopened yesterday after being closed by state officials since the attack. Another shoreline closure occurred Friday after a diver's partially devoured remains were found at a diving spot off Makena. Authorities said the 45-year-old California man likely drowned or died of other causes before being bitten by sharks.

On Feb. 1, a kayaker was bumped by what is believed to have been a great white shark about a mile off Makena State Park, and on Dec. 21, a San Diego man lost part of his left hand to a shark while swimming off Keawakapu Beach in Kihei.

Renner said Monday's attack in the wake of the discovery of the diver's remains "really shook up the swimming community."

She said it's not unusual for people who regularly swim in the ocean to see sharks. Since 1988, when Renner moved to Maui, only one other organized ocean swim has had to be called off, she said, and that was because of poor conditions.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.