WAILUKU - The shark that bit a California woman Wednesday at Ulua Beach in South Maui showed up quickly and left so fast that the woman didn't even see it.
"It happened so fast. I didn't see him coming. I didn't see him leave," said 56-year-old Evonne Cashman, who was recovering Thursday morning at Maui Memorial Medical Center. "He just came and hit me hard and bit me hard, and I took off swimming to shore as fast as I could cause stupid me, I was out there with no one. Like they tell you, you're not supposed to snorkel alone."
The former teacher from Cerritos, Calif., suffered multiple wounds to the palms of her hands, her chin and her back and neck area and some bruising to her stomach area from the attack.
California visitor Evonne Cashman describes being attacked by a shark during a news conference in her room Thursday at Maui Memorial Medical Center. She was attacked Wednesday morning at Ulua Beach off South Maui.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Cashman shows the wounds on her hands
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
She said the attack occurred in murky and choppy water, two days after Tropical Depression Flossie rolled through Maui and reportedly piled up debris along some parts of the South Maui coastline.
After seeing many fish and a turtle, Cashman said, she was feeling tired and was just about to turn back to shore.
"All of a sudden out of nowhere, bam! I got bites on my back . . . (and) of course my hands," she said.
Safety tips to reduce the risk of shark injury
* Swim, surf or dive with other people and do not move too far away from assistance.
* Stay out of the water at dawn, dusk and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed.
* Do not enter the water with open wounds or when bleeding. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
* Avoid murky waters, harbor entrances, channels, steep drop-offs and areas near stream mouths (especially after heavy rains). These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
* Do not wear high-contrast clothing or shiny jewelry. Sharks see contrast very well.
* Refrain from excessive splashing; keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are known to be attracted to such activity.
* Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and leave the water quickly and calmly if one is sighted. Do not provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
* If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. Be alert to the presence of dolphins because they are prey for some large sharks.
* Remove speared fish from the water or tow them a safe distance away. Do not swim near people fishing or spearfishing. Stay away from dead animals in the water.
* Swim or surf at beaches patrolled by lifeguards and follow their advice.
During the attack, she lost the special optical googles she had rented.
After she was bitten, all she could think about was "just get back to shore."
While she swam quickly with her fins and hands in motion, she yelled for help and eventually was able to get the attention of other snorkelers. Others came to help, including a man who pulled her from the ocean and others who applied towels to put pressure on her back and chin to stop the bleeding.
"I want to say thank you to all of those people," she said.
Although Cashman had multiple wounds, she said she was attacked only once.
"It only bit once, and he let go right way. I'm very grateful to God for that. He was out there protecting me," she said.
State aquatics biologist Russell Sparks confirmed Thursday that the multiple wounds Cashman received could have come from one bite of a shark. He explained that the woman's hands may have been near her face where she was attacked, causing those wounds.
He added that the angle at which the shark attacked also played a role in how she was injured. In biting Cashman, it appeared the shark's mouth reached above her right shoulder area where she suffered injuries.
Cashman did say that the shark came at her from her right side.
Sparks, who is with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, is investigating the incident for the state and said that the type and the size of the shark remain undetermined at this time. He has yet to formally interview Cashman, though he has been briefed on the details of the attack and viewed photos of the wounds.
Cashman had been snorkeling in about 10 feet of water about 30 feet from a rocky point at Ulua Beach when she was attacked between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, DLNR officials said. The attack prompted a shoreline closure a mile north and south of Ulua Beach that stretched from Polo Beach to the Mana Kai Maui Resort.
The all-clear was given at noon Thursday, and the shorelines were reopened, DLNR officials said.
The shark attack Wednesday follows one on Oahu on Monday in which a surfer was bit in the right leg while in the water at White Plains Beach near Barbers Point.
According to the website Hawaii Sharks, maintained by the DLNR, there have been three other reported shark attacks in Hawaii this year, with two on Maui in different places, both reported at 6 p.m. Feb. 21.
One was in the area of Honokowai about 100 yards from shore. A person was surfing in about 6 feet of clear water when the shark attacked. The victim suffered lacerations to the right leg. It is suspected that a reef shark was involved.
The other was in Paia Bay, about 75 yards from shore. A surfer in 5 to 8 feet of muddy water reported having a shark bite the rail of a foam surfboard. It is suspected that a 6-foot reef shark was to blame.
Not listed on the website was an attack at about 8:20 a.m. April 2 about 100 yards off Kaanapali and the Maui Kai condominium. A 58-year-old Marina Del Ray, Calif., man was sitting on his surfboard with legs dangling in the water when he was attacked by a shark, according to reports in The Maui News. It left two deep lacerations on his right thigh and required hospitalization.
Last year, Hawaii had 11 reported shark attacks, according to the website. Maui saw six of those attacks. None were fatal.
Sparks said Maui has a lot of water activities around the island, especially in South and West Maui. He said experts note that with more people in the water there is an increased probability of a shark attack.
Cashman, who has been to Maui many times, said there were lessons learned from her ordeal.
One is that swimmers should not go into the water a couple of days after a major storm. She said the water was murky and choppy but said she was able to see the bottom, fish and a turtle.
Sparks said the water could have been murky from the effects of Flossie, and there is a water drain just north of Ulua Beach. Sharks are known to hover in outlets to the ocean.
Cashman said she will be returning to the water, though probably not on this visit to Maui. She loves snorkeling, and swimming in the ocean is therapy for her. She suffers from neurological problems that affect the movement of her head. When she arrived on Maui on her last visit eight years ago, Cashman said, she couldn't move her head, but putting her head in the water helped.
She was to be released from the hospital Thursday and will be flying back to California on Tuesday.
The shark attack has not dampened her love of swimming in the ocean.
"I can't imagine not doing it anymore," she said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.