UPDATE: The search for a missing Washington woman was called off at noon Dec. 9 after teams failed to find her, Hawaii state officials said. A tiger shark estimated at 10 to 12 feet in length was seen in the area. The original story is below.
A 60-year-old tourist who went missing while snorkeling off a Hawaii beach may have been attacked by a shark, state officials say.
The Washington woman was last seen around noon Thursday, Dec. 8, about 75 yards off Keawakapu Point in South Maui, the U.S. Coast Guard reports.
Her identity and home town have not been released.
“Based on reports from her husband and other witnesses, just before noon on Thursday, a large shark was spotted about 50-yards off-shore at Keawakapu Point in south Maui,” the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources reports.
“The woman’s husband reported while the couple was snorkeling he saw a shark swim by but could not see his wife. The shark swam by several times before the man returned to shore and reported his wife missing.”
The Maui Fire Department and Maui Ocean Safety conducted an “extensive water search as well as an aerial search,” according to Dan Dennison of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The search ended after 24 hours.
Searchers reported seeing a tiger shark in the area, estimated at 10 to 12 feet in length, state officials said. Tiger sharks have been linked to 39 “unprovoked” fatal attacks worldwide, according to records kept by the Florida Museum.
Witnesses reported seeing the woman being bitten by the predator, and her husband is said to have “fought off the shark,” according to station KGMB. Snorkeling equipment was later found in the area, along with “part of a bathing suit in the water,” the station said.
Dennison confirmed during a press conference there were witnesses on the beach. As for the items found in the area, he said authorities had yet to figure out who owns them.
“Maui tends to have a lot of shark activity,” he said. “Maui predominantly has the most human-shark encounters of the main Hawaiian islands.”