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Husband of woman hurt by monk seal says she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”

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Video of monk seal off of Kaimana Beach (July 24, 2022) VC: Hawaiʻi DLNR

When the Hawaiian monk seal Rocky, and her pup encountered a 60-year-old California elementary school teacher, a State investigation shows she did nothing to provoke the incident and was not aware the seals were in the water. 

She received lacerations to her face, back, and an arm in the Sunday morning incident which happened at about 8:30 and occurred an estimated 150-feet off Kaimana beach, where the two seals have been since Rocky gave birth to her latest offspring. 

In an interview today, with DLNR, the woman and her husband recounted what happened. An officer from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, who also interviewed the couple, confirms their version of the events. 

“Sunday morning the seals were at the far end of the beach near the Natatorium,” the victim’s husband noted. The baby seal went out of sight and apparently swam into the dilapidated former swimming pool inside the structure. “The mother woke up and was very agitated and was barking, clearly distressed by the absence of her pup,” he said. 

Ocean safety lifeguards were not in their tower yet, and ten swimmers, including the attack victim went into the water with no seals visible on the beach or in the ocean. The woman’s husband was watching and videotaping from their nearby 12th-floor condominium. 

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Video, he provided, shows his wife swimming near the Natatorium with both seals appearing to go back to the beach. Instead, they went back into the water and began swimming toward her and approximately 30-seconds later the incident occurred. 

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“My wife had a swim cap on, and her head was in the water when both seals appeared. She could not hear 50 or so people on the beach screaming for swimmers to get out of the water.  She then stands up and hears the people screaming and waving at her. She starts swimming away from the seals.” 

“I’m thinking she’s going to die, by the time I get down to the beach. When I got there, three rescuers, including one in an outrigger canoe were bringing her to shore, while the seals were swimming toward them again.” He visited with lifeguards today, in an effort to learn the identities of his wife’s rescuers so they can thank them.

“We’ve been in Hawai‘i for three weeks and saw the pup at Kaimana immediately after it was born. We’ve read all the safe viewing signs and abide by them. These seals swam up behind her and she was not aware of them. In addition to her state of agitation from being separated from her pup, I believe all of the commotion on the beach likely added to her frustration.” 

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He said this morning, watching from up high, the exact thing almost happened again, when the pup went into the Natatorium and mom started barking for it around 8:10.  

His wife says it was a terrifying experience. “Neither of us could sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes, I was seeing the mother seal’s mouth. I’m a teacher and I care a lot about the environment and wildlife. I teach conservation to my students. I’ve collected discarded fishing hooks and brought them to shore and three years ago I saw a sea turtle entangled in fishing line and reported it.”

Her husband added, “There is no one to blame here. All my wife did was go swimming and she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” 

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