Lake Oswego man back home after shark attack
More medical treatment awaits Tom Kennedy following his encounter with a tiger shark
A 61-year-old Lake Oswego man is back home following an attack by a shark Friday while he was snorkeling about 200 yards off the shore of Maui.
The shark grabbed Tom Kennedy as he was in the water on the south side of the Hawaiian island near Kalama Beach Park off Kihei.
When the attack occurred, Kennedy said he was with two friends, Dr. Bryce Buchanan, a retired Lake Oswego dentist who owns a vacation home on Maui, and Buchanans daughter, Holly, who is an emergency room nurse at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin.
The trio paddled out on three standing paddleboards and were snorkeling along a reef in about 20 feet of water. While the water had been clear on previous days, that was not the case Friday.
In fact, we were in the very same area the previous day and were able to see turtles and fish from the paddleboards, Kennedy said.
He said Wednesday afternoon that the water clarity (last Friday) was not so great.
In hindsight, he said he met up with a school of goatfish that appeared to be swimming away from something.
Later on he theorized that the something might have been the shark.
After about 20 minutes in the water, Kennedy decided to turn back to his paddleboard, which he had anchored.
I had made the turn back when suddenly I felt this thing grab me from behind on my leg and foot, and I turned around and saw what it was and started kicking, he recounted.
Kennedy said the shark let go immediately and, after he swam away, his first action was to yell to his companions to get out of the water.
I had to warn them, he said. I hollered to them to get out of the water (they had a paddleboard they could climb on) but I didnt say anything about the shark.
As he swam toward his board, which he estimated was about 100 yards away, Kennedy said, I kept looking back, hoping I wouldnt see him.
After he reached his board, he climbed on top and for the first time surveyed the damage to his lower left leg and thigh, which had suffered multiple lacerations.
Kennedy and the Buchanans were able to flag down a nearby outrigger canoe with six people on board to come to their rescue.
As they were docking with the canoe, we saw a big swirl in the water and we were convinced that it was a shark, Kennedy said. The water around the canoe was quite bloody, he added.
Once in the canoe, Holly Buchanan created a tourniquet out of a paddleboard cord and additional tourniquets were placed on Kennedy once the canoe brought him ashore. He was then transported around 11 a.m. to Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku, where his wounds were cleaned and partially stitched.
An official from the Hawaiian Department of Fish and Wildlife interviewed him in the hospital, questioning him about the attack. Based on the wounds suffered and Kennedys description of the sharks size, color and shape of head, the state official theorized that the culprit was probably about a 10-foot-long tiger shark, a species known for being aggressive.
Beaches in the area were closed and authorities searched for the shark from sea and sky before later reopening the water to the public. Two sharks were apparently seen, Kennedy said.
The wildlife official said late fall is the most active time when shark incidents happen in the area and there have been a couple cases reported in recent weeks.
After his release from the hospital Saturday afternoon, Kennedy and his wife, Sandy, rested on shore until they flew back home Tuesday evening.
Tom Kennedy visited Wednesday morning with his family doctor, who assessed the wounds.
They were revealing, Kennedy said. After the doctor reopened all of the bandages, it was the first time I saw (the wounds) since paddling on my board Friday.
Kennedy, who is retired, is being referred to a general surgeon and will have further medical treatments coming up. The key focus right now is avoiding infection.
Asked how he is doing, Kennedy responded: quite well considering, as I am beginning the next phase of my life.
He expressed appreciation to family and friends for their love and offers of help, especially his wife, Sandy. The couple lives in the McVey-South Shore area.