By CHELSEA JENSEN and ERIN MILLER
Paul Santos, who a witness said was in water about 8 feet deep at Kiholo Bay when attacked by a 15- to 16-foot tiger shark Wednesday afternoon, is recovering at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center in Honolulu.
A Kaiser spokeswoman said the 43-year-old man was in alert and stable condition, with bites to his right arm and leg.
Aaron Walters, a chef for Earl Bakken, who has a home on the bay, said he was outside of the house picking herbs when someone called for help.
“There was a gentleman running down the beach, very distressed,” Walters said.
The man was surfing with Santos, Walters said, when the friend noticed the shark and returned to shore. The friend attempted to get Santos to get out of the water, Walters said.
Walters, who moved to the Big Island in November, previously worked as a tech in an emergency room and called on that experience to help the victim.
“When I got there, they were trying to make a tourniquet,” Walters said. “We used the surfboard leash and tied it around his bicep.”
Walters and several other people, including some tourists and eventually a nurse who also works for Bakken, also used beach towels to wrap Santos’s arm.
“All we did was keep him stable, keep him warm,” Walters said.
Walters also called 911, as did the nurse.
Walters’ boss, Adam Atwood, praised his staff for their quick response to the incident. Atwood said the attack happened in murky, shallow waters.
“We do see sharks down there from time to time,” Atwood said.
The bite injuries to Santos’ arm and left knee were severe, Atwood added.
The attack happened just after 5 p.m., Hawaii Fire Department officials said. An on-duty battalion chief said the victim and his surfing partner described the tiger shark as “big” and a “monster.” Santos was transported to North Hawaii Community Hospital in stable condition.
Hospital spokeswoman Krista Anderson said Santos was flown later Wednesday evening to The Queen’s Medical Center. Stephens Media later learned he went to the Kaiser hospital on Oahu.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, under the authority of which the park falls, said Santos was surfing about 200 yards offshore when the shark bit him on the right arm. He also suffered injuries to his knee.
John Kahiapo, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources education specialist and member of the state Shark Task Force, said the shark involved is believed to be a tiger and at least 15 feet in length. He said Santos was able to paddle back to shore on his own power, where he was helped by several bystanders and residents.
The DLNR said the park remained closed until about 1:30 p.m. after aerial observations from a Hawaii County helicopter turned up no sign of the shark in an area spanning from the park, which is located between mile-markers 81 and 82 off Queen Kaahumanu Highway, to Spencer Beach Park in Kawaihae. Signs were posted announcing the closure, however, area residents were allowed into the area.
Shark attacks are relatively rare in West Hawaii. In 2011, there were two reports of sharks biting surfboards, but not injuring the riders, near Lyman’s surf spot in Kailua-Kona.
Prior to that, an attack occurred in October 1999 when a 16-year-old boy had his arm bitten by a 6- to 8-foot shark while he was surfing shortly before sunset off Old Kona Airport Park, according to West Hawaii Today archives. An unconfirmed attack was also reported April 1987 in Kailua Bay and a confirmed attack occurred in 1963 off South Kona, according to the archives.
Carl Meyer, with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology’s Shark and Reef Fish Research division, was unable to be reached for further input on the tiger shark, including its behavior and frequency of attacks on humans.