Ron Bass, kayak tour guide owner of Maui Sea Kayaking and special education teacher at Wailuku Elementary School, rescued fifty-six year old Californian Henrietta Musselwhite when a shark attacked her Wednesday morning off the West Maui coast.
"The wounds were really bad," Ron explained. "If she had swam back with those lacerations, she probably would have bled to death."
Ron, a twenty year veteran of the sport, had been out practicing rolling when he changed his plans and paddled back to shore after feeling "shark vibes."
On shore he met Henrietta and her daughter, former customers of his at Maui Sea Kayaking. He offered to take them out in his kayaks; the daughter agreed but the mother wanted to snorkel.
About a half-mile out, while Bass was keeping an eye on her, he saw a splash thinking it was
Musselwhite diving for the bottom and kicking the surface with her fins.
Then Ron realized what was happening. He was about 75 yards away, at about 11 a.m. when he saw "...a bunch of whitewater around her. I saw this gray thing come out of the water three times," he said. "She yelled for help..." Ron put Musselwhite on his kayak and brought her to shore.
He told us "I was on a Necky Rip (whitewater kayak) when I rescued her and that wasn't easy because when she got on the back the bow went up into the air. It took about 25 minutes to paddle her back to Camp Pecusa."
He described the two wounds on Henrietta's back as "more like slashes" -- about 3 inches wide, one 6 inches long, another 4 inches. Her thigh was also punctured. When Ron arrived on the scene she was breathing hard but "...maintained her cool." He instructed her daughter to follow closely behind and to strike the shark with her paddle should it return.
It wasn't until they reached the beach that they realized how bad the bites were. Bass said he used all the gauze and wraps he had in his first aid kit, but was barely able to cover the wounds.
Henrietta was in stable condition at Maui Memorial Hospital and has made Maui an annual vacation refuge for the past twenty years. Staying at Camp Pecusa she was snorkeling in her favorite location for viewing sea turtles when that attack occured in about 30 feet of clear water, a half-mile offshore, on the edge of the reef at Olowalu in West Maui. The beaches, popular with tourist, were immediately closed while state conservation enforcement workers patrolled the area.
In the anxciousness of the moment she is reported to have said, "I guess I'll have shark tattoos put on the scars."
Note: We are especially proud of Ron as he is an old friend of Tom's from their early days in Hawaii. A few years ago he assisted us on our North Coast Maui trip: an eight day camping tour along coastline accessable only by kayak. We hiked up to Ron's rural home above Pilale bay for a visit. The weather turned especially windy, 45 mile an hour winds coming up from behind and we had a 6 mile paddle ahead. He lowered his kayak down this cliff to lead us to a calm bay only a local would know about, less than a mile up the coast from our planned take out, then closed by breaking surf. Photo by Athena Holtey: Hiking up to Ron's, North Maui coast: Tom, Phil, Jane
We hope you've found this information helpful.
We appreciate your feedback & support.
Using these links to purchase or to participate makes TopKayaker.net possible.