An apparent shark attack victim, who was found of the coast of Maui, Hawaii, Wednesday has been identified. But how 65-year-old Margaret C. Cruse met her tragic death while snorkeling remains unclear as authorities continue to investigate what would be the first fatal shark attack in United States waters in almost two years.
Cruse had reportedly been snorkeling off Ahihi Kinau Bay in Maui with two friends in an area known to locals as “The Dumps,” but at some point she became separated from her companions. At around 9 a.m. on Wednesday she was found floating about 200 yards off the shore — alone.
Cruse was unresponsive when another group of snorkelers saw her in the water and hauled her to shore. Paramedics and firefighters were called and made attempts to revive her, but they were not successful. The Kihei, Hawaii, resident passed away on the shore.
According to Maui Fire Department spokesperson Edward Taomoto, Cruse’s torso displayed wounds that appeared consistent with a shark attack. But though they closed the area’s beaches, authorities were still not prepared to say that Cruse was definitely killed by a shark.
Autopsy results were expected sometime Thursday, with an official cause of death to be confirmed at that time.
The apparent shark attack took place near a spot popular with snorkeling enthusiasts in the area, Kanahena Cove. But how Cruse became separated from her companions, and when exactly the injuries that seemingly led to her death occurred remain uncertain. There are no known witnesses to the attack — or whatever happened to Margaret Cruse.
Cruse was a volunteer with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Natural Area Reserves System, KHON TV reported. The woman was seen in the Ahihi Kinau Bay area almost every day, the station said.
Though the number of shark attacks on humans have risen almost every decade for the past 100 years, fatal shark attack remain extremely rare. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Americans are about 10 times more likely to be killed by a fireworks explosion, and nearly 50 times more likely to die from a lightening strike than to be killed by a shark attack.
Margaret Cruse, if her autopsy confirms the suspicion that she was killed by a shark attack, will become the first United States shark fatality this year. The year 2014 saw zero fatal attacks within the United States.
The most recent victim of a fatal shark attack in the U.S. came in August of 2013, when a German tourist was killed by a shark bite off of Maui. The last shark attack death in the contiguous 48 states was in 2012 when a Great White shark attacked a surfer off of a Santa Barbara County beach in California.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]