Maui shark attack victim to rescuer: ‘I’m dying… I’m going to die’


Generic tiger shark image is courtesy of Wikipedia

A 20-year-old German tourist whose right arm was severed by a shark as she snorkeled Wednesday off Maui was certain she was going to die--and probably would have were it not for the heroics of a man who swam to her rescue.

Jana Witteropp, who was attacked about 50 yards off Palauea, or White Rock Beach, remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Rick Moore, 57, a high school teacher and pastor from Southern California, swam out to a screaming Witteropp and tried to comfort the woman as he helped her reach the shore. Nick Grisaffi, another visitor from Southern California, also assisted in helping Witteropp to shore.

Moore told Hawaii News Now, in a story published Friday, that as he reached Witteropp she began to drift in and out of consciousness.

“She was in and out [while] saying these words, 'I’m dying, I’m going to die,’ and I kept saying to her, no you’re not,” Moore said. “We’re going to get you to shore. We’re going to save you.”

Once on the shore a police officer placed a tourniquet on Witteropp’s shoulder to stem the blood flow. But she had lost a lot of blood.

“During that process she was fading away,” Moore said. “We brought her up to the street. We’re slapping her face trying to get her conscious and then I started doing artificial respiration with her to revive her.”


Photo courtesy of Wendy Osher/Maui Now

Maui Now reports that Maui Fire Department personnel administered CPR and first aid upon arrival.

Witteropp was transported to Maui Memorial Hospital.

As of Friday morning, according to Hawaii News Now, she remained on a respirator and was unresponsive, but had opened her eyes and moved her remaining limbs.

The attack, which is presumed to have been by a tiger shark, occurred just before 5 p.m. in choppy conditions, with limited water visibility.

Andree Conley-Kapoi, who was at White Rock Beach at the time of the attack, told Maui Now that she called 911 after hearing screams.

“We heard screaming from the water and it was this unbelievable scream like I've never heard before,” Conley-Kapoi said. “The only time anybody would scream like that is if they are being attacked by a shark.”

White Rock Beach was reopened Thursday but surfers and swimmers island-wide are understandably nervous.

A day before the attack on Witteropp, a shark bit an unmanned board off Ka’a Point in Central Maui.

Two weeks ago, a woman visiting from California was treated and released after suffering a bite to her torso off Ulua in South Maui.

In April, a tourist from California suffered lacerations to his right thigh as a result of a shark bite off the popular Maui tourist town of Kaanapali.

Tourists and residents throughout Hawaii are advised to avoid swimming or surfing alone, especially early or late in the day, when sharks might be on the reefs feeding.

They’re also advised to stay out of murky water because it’s easier to be mistaken as prey by tiger sharks and other shark species. Among prey items for tiger sharks are green sea turtles, and it’s possible that swimmers or surfers silhouetted at the surface resemble turtles, or other large prey.