California visitor Evonne Cashman said she was snorkeling in waters off
South Maui and was excited at seeing a "big" turtle and lots of fish around her,
when out of nowhere a large shark bit her.
She said she didn't see it coming or going.
"I'm very lucky that he decided he didn't like me and swam away, right away," she said Thursday from her hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center. MauiNow.com provided the Star-Advertiser with a recording of Cashman being interviewed.
Authorities said the attack Wednesday morning took place about 30 feet from shore in 10 feet of water.
Cashman, 56, of Cerritos, whose left side of her chin required stitches and right and left hand were cut, said the attack tore a couple of holes in her favorite bathing suit. She also had bruises across her stomach and bite marks on her back.
"He just came and hit me hard and bit me hard. ... It happened so fast," she said.
Her only thought, she said, was to swim to shore.
"He let go as quickly as he bit me. So then I just started swimming to shore as fast as I could, yelling help the whole way," she said.
Cashman said her mask was gone after the attack and that it probably protected her face from further injury.
She said with her hands hurt, swimming ashore took a few minutes. Luckily, others in the water helped her.
Cashman said this visit wasn't her first time on Maui, and she had been snorkeling earlier in the week at other locations. She was snorkeling for a half-hour to 45 minutes and was about to swim in when the attack occurred.
She said since the attack, she's learned that people should wait a couple of days after a storm before going into the ocean.
The attack was the second this week in the wake of Tropical Depression Flossie, which arrived Monday. At 2 p.m. Monday a 19-year-old Kaneohe man was attacked at White Plains Beach in Ewa.
Authorities said debris that washes into the ocean attracts sharks and that the murky water makes visibility difficult for people as well as sharks.
"It was rather murky. ... I could see to the bottom without any problem, but there was lots of debris," she said.
Cashman, who was planning to leave the hospital Thursday, said she won't be swimming for the remainder of her Maui trip, which ends Tuesday. But she will go back in the ocean eventually.
She remained optimistic.
"I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason and something good will come out of this," she said.
State aquatic biologist Russell Sparks said information was still being gathered about the attack and that no formal determination has been made about the species or size of the shark.
The number of shark attacks jumped from three in 2011 to 11 in 2012 and stands at five in 2013.
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