A Hawaii man has died after being bitten by a shark while surfing on Tuesday. The attack, at Honolua Bay on the island of Maui, caused the indefinite postponement of a World Surf League event that was being staged there.

A spokeswoman for the Maui Memorial Medical Center confirmed to The Washington Post that the man died on Wednesday evening after having arrived at the hospital the day before in critical condition.

The unidentified victim was described by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) as a 56-year-old man from the area. He was a recreational surfer who was not involved in the competition.

“Our thoughts and hearts are with the victim’s family and friends as well as the entire Maui surfing community,” the World Surf League said in a statement early Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the WSL announced that its Maui Pro event for women, which began last week and was scheduled to run through Dec. 15, would not be continued at Honolua Bay. The organization said it was working to find another location in Hawaii. A WSL men’s competition at the famed Pipeline on the island of Oahu, which began this week, was continuing as scheduled.

The shark attack took place before the scheduled 10 a.m. start of Tuesday’s competition at the Maui Pro. According to Maui Now, safety personnel on hand for the surfing event were able to provide first aid after getting the victim, who was attacked approximately 20 yards offshore, to land. Photos posted by the DLNR showed a sizable bite taken out of the side of the man’s surfboard.


Posted by Hawaii DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) on Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A website maintained by the state of Hawaii shows three confirmed shark attacks on people or their boards recorded earlier this year, one of which occurred elsewhere in Maui in February. In that incident, a stand-up paddleboarder’s board was damaged. A surfer and a snorkeler were injured in the other two incidents.

Among the 13 shark-related episodes from 2019 listed on the Hawaii state website, one resulted in a fatality. A person died in May of that year after losing a leg, among other injuries, while swimming approximately 120 yards offshore at Honokōwai in Maui.

Maui Now reported last month that a 35-year-old California woman suffered severe torso injuries in an apparent shark attack off the coast of that island on Thanksgiving Day. The woman was swimming approximately 100 yards offshore, per the DLNR, when a nearby companion saw a fin in the water.

According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, there were 64 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on humans last year, including 41 in the United States. Making the case that the risk of such attacks is extremely low, the organization posted numbers compiled from 1959 through 2010 that indicated Americans in coastal states were more than twice as likely to be killed by a lightning strike than injured in any way by a shark.

A local shark expert told Hawaii’s KHON Wednesday that fatal attacks on humans are “very unusual.”

“Most attacks don’t result in people dying, fortunately,” said Kim Holland of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Marine Biology. “So this is a terrible turn of events.”

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