By Wendy Osher
“It happened so fast. I didn’t see him coming. I didn’t see him leave. He just came and hit me hard, and bit me hard; and I took off swimming to the shore as fast as I could,” said Evonne Cashman, who was bitten by what doctors estimate was a 20 to 25-foot shark.
Although officials at Maui Memorial Medical Center confirmed doctor estimates of the shark size, officials with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said they are still conducting an investigation and have not yet made an informed determination on the size or type of shark involved.
DLNR Education and Outreach Coordinator, Laura Stevens said beaches that were closed yesterday have since reopened as of noon today.
Officials say Cashman, 56, of Cerritos, California was snorkeling in waters off of Ulua Beach about 30 feet from shore in about 10 feet of water when the incident occurred on Wednesday morning.
During an interview at her bedside, Cashman showed bites marks on hands, chin, and said she also had bite marks on her back and impressions with bruises across her stomach.
Family members say the bite on Cashman’s back extends at least 18 inches, coming down to her waist and curving around to the front of her torso and stomach area.
According to Cashman, the attack tore a couple of holes in her “favorite” bathing suit, which had to be cut off while paramedics assessed her injuries.
Cashman, who is a repeat visitor to Maui, said she had been to Ulua Beach before, and had been snorkeling earlier in the week at other locations.
Cashman said she was excited to see a “big” turtle moments before being bit and said there were lots of fish around closer to shore.
According to Cashman, she had been snorkeling for 30 to 45 minutes, and was ready to come in when, “all of a sudden, out of nowhere, bam,” she said.
“He let go as quickly as he bit me. So then I just started swimming to shore as fast as I could, yelling help the whole way.”
“What went through my mind was, just getting back to shore. And I swam. My mask was gone. I think that might have been what protected my face from getting more (injuries),” said Cashman who noted that her mask fell off.
With her hands bleeding and having swallowed some water on the way, Cashman said it took a few minutes to get back to shore with the help of others.
“I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and something good will come out of this,” she said. Going back in the water I know it won’t happen this trip. But I will go in sometime.”
Cashman, who is staying at the nearby Maui Hill condominiums, said she will be checking out of the Maui Memorial Medical Center today, and will be on Maui through Tuesday.
“I’m very lucky that he decided he didn’t like me and swam away right away,” said Cashman.
“I’ve learned now that after a couple days from a storm, you should wait to go in the water, because it was rather choppy and it was rather murky. I could see to the bottom without any problem, but there was lots of debris,” said Cashman.
Cashman said she did plan on going back in the water again to snorkel, but probably not on this trip. “I can’t imagine not doing it again,” she said.