Family mourns young woman who died after Maui shark attack
German tourist lost her arm while snorkeling about 100 yards off a Maui beach; state now studying increase in shark attacks in Hawaii waters.
HONOLULU (AP) — A 20-year-old German woman who lost her right arm in a shark attack off a Hawaii beach last week is being remembered by her family as beautiful and strong after fighting to stay alive in a Maui hospital.
“We are sad to say that she lost her fight today,” her family said a statement Wednesday through Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Jana Lutteropp was the first person to die from a shark attack in Hawaii since 2004. The incident is drawing attention from state officials, who say they’re getting calls from the public asking if beaches are safe. At the same time, they hope a new study will close gaps in scientific knowledge about shark movements around Maui.
Lutteropp had been on life support since a shark bit her on Aug. 14 as she snorkeled about 100 yards off of Palauea Beach in south Maui.
A vacationing California high schoolteacher heard Lutteropp screaming, saw the surf flooded with blood and jumped in to save her. He swam her back to shore, worried that the shark that bit off her arm was still lurking nearby.
“I was really hoping it would be a miracle and she would pull through,” Moore, 57, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., said soon after hearing of the woman’s death.
The family asked that donations in Lutteropp’s memory be made to the medical center’s foundation.
“Jana was a very beautiful, strong, young woman who was always laughing, and we will forever remember her that way,” said the statement from her mother, Jutta Lutteropp and sister, Julia Broeske.
Moore said Lutteropp clung to his neck with her remaining arm while they made their way to the beach. She went in and out of consciousness and kept repeating that she was going to die, he said.
“I can only imagine what she was going through,” he said. “I was inspired by her.”
After the attack, Moore’s friend Nicholas Grisaffi stood in neck-high water and took Lutteropp from Moore, carrying her limp body out of the water.
Grisaffi said he’s been replaying the ordeal in his mind.
“Rick risked his life,” said Grisaffi, 61, of Laguna Beach, Calif. “Did I do enough? Should I have grabbed my fins and swam out with him?”
The last time someone in Hawaii died from a shark attack was in 2004, when a tiger shark bit Willis McInnis in the leg while he was surfing 100 yards off Maui. McInnis suffered severe blood loss and died on the shore despite rescue efforts by beachgoers, police and paramedics. The last fatal attack before that was in 1992.
The head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the agency responsible for Hawaii’s waters, said he was deeply saddened to learn of Lutterop’s death and joined Hawaii’s people in extending his sympathy to her family and friends.
“As an island state, we are aware that we are all visitors in the natural environment that surrounds us, and that unfortunate incidents such as this one can occur,” William Aila said. “We are committed to furthering research efforts that will help guide effective management actions in the interest of safety.”
Hawaii officials announced Tuesday they plan to spend the next two years studying tiger shark movements around Maui amid what they call an unprecedented spike in overall shark attacks since the start of 2012.
There have been eight attacks statewide this year and 10 in 2012. Hawaii usually sees only three to four attacks each year.
A woman was killed last month after being attacked while swimming in Brazil during her vacation.
Worldwide, there were seven deaths resulting from unprovoked shark attacks in 2012, including one in California, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.