The state of Maine was shocked this week by news that a woman swimming off Bailey Island was bitten and killed by a shark. This was the first fatal shark attack in the state’s history and it came during the peak of the ‘Vacationland’ tourism season.
The victim was 63-year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach who was President of Kipling North America (a handbag company). Julie was swimming about 20-yards off of Bailey Island with her daughter on Monday afternoon. She was wearing a black wetsuit which, unfortunately, is an outfit that could conceivably be mistaken by a great white shark as a swimming seal.
The shark left a tooth fragment in her leg which scientists were then able to use to determine that the culprit in this attack was in fact a Great White Shark. Some of the details of this tragic story are disturbing.
Tom Whyte was an eye-witness to the attack. He witnessed it from the second story of his home which overlooks Bailey Island’s Mackerel Cove. Here’s what he shared with the Boston Globe:
Tom Whyte said he was working from his second-story office overlooking the island’s Mackerel Cove when he saw two people head out for an afternoon swim on an unusually hot Monday afternoon.
He watched as the duo laughed and paddled northward about 20 yards from shore, one in a black wetsuit, the other in a blue one-piece swimsuit. Then the person wearing the wetsuit dipped under the water, arms flailing.
The other woman, who authorities later said was Dimperio Holowach’s daughter, looked back, viewed her companion emerge from under the water and swam rapidly back to shore, where she climbed to land and screamed for help. Neighbors ran to her aid. She was uninjured.
A million scenarios shot through Whyte’s mind, he said. But never the one that authorities later reported: a shark had attacked the woman in the wetsuit, who was later identified as Dimperio Holowach.
A brief Coast Guard search was launched after hearing of the attack but the victim had already been brought to land and paramedics pronounced her dead upon arrival.
Local authorities are notifying swimmers to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings and to avoid schools of fish that might attract seals which then in turn might attract sharks as predators. According to the Globe, the beaches were not closed because of ‘the rarity of this event’ as this was the first fatal shark attack in Maine’s history.
What’s wild is the *LAST* recorded shark attack in Maine at all was 10-years-ago by a porbeagle shark. Any human-to-shark encounter in Maine is exceedingly rare. For more on this tragic event, you can read the article over on the Boston Globe.