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’It was big; it was ugly’

November 13th, 2006, 06:31 PM
WAILUKU – As a 29-year-old Canadian visitor described his close call with death in waters off South Maui, state enforcement officers and county lifeguards found no signs of a shark that attacked the man. They later reopened a stretch of shoreline from Cove Park to Keawakapu Beach as of noon Sunday.

Kyle Gruen, a visitor from Vancouver, British Columbia, remained in stable condition at Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was recovering from shark bites to his left hand and thigh. A Maui News request for an interview was declined Sunday morning, but he detailed what happened in a phone interview with Vancouver reporter Ethan Baron, a staff writer with the CanWest News Service’s publication The Province.

Gruen told Baron he had been on Maui for about 12 hours Saturday when the former competitive swimmer decided to go for a swim at about 1 p.m. at Kamaole Beach, across from the resort where he was staying. After 10 minutes of swimming about 40 feet offshore, he stopped at an outcropping of volcanic rock to watch colorful tropical fish.

“I had my head down in the water, looking at fish,” said Gruen, who was wearing swim goggles. “I just felt something hit me, and then felt it bite.”

Gruen told Baron his lifeguard training kicked in, and he instinctively performed a twisting maneuver used to escape the grasp of a drowning swimmer grabbing from behind. He said he caught sight of the animal attacking him.

“When I twisted away, I had my face in the water, and I saw it, it was kind of a purplish color on the top and gray on the sides,” Gruen told Baron. “It was big. It was ugly.”

As his left leg came free of the shark’s mouth, Gruen felt his flesh tearing, he said, and he had a final view of the 6- to 10-foot shark.

“I remember seeing it turn its whole body. The last thing I saw was its tail going away,” he told Baron.

Gruen told Baron he was left floating in “blood soup.” On his left upper leg, a nearly 5-inch-long gash, 2 inches wide, was gushing blood. “It makes everything around you look red . . . I was freaked out that the shark was just going to come racing back.

“I just started screaming, yelling my head off,” he said.

A former provincial swim champion for the Coquitlam Sharks club, Gruen raced toward shore, he recalled. When he found that his left hand wasn’t working properly, he realized the shark had clamped down on that hand when it bit his leg.

“My fingers were all just flopping around,” he said.

Hauling himself out onto some rocks a few feet from the beach, he took a look at his wounds as people rushed to help him. He said he could see muscle through the laceration in his leg, and severed tendons inside his hand. Blood pooled in the crevices of the black volcanic rock on which he sat.

He told Baron that five people carried him to the beach, then up to a lawn chair at a nearby resort, where paramedics attempted to stop bleeding from his wounds. Then, medics rushed him in an ambulance to the hospital.

Gruen, an operations manager at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, had come to Maui to serve as best man at a friend’s wedding. He said doctors told him it was unlikely he would be released from the hospital in time for today’s wedding.

“Some of the gashes they don’t want to close up till they know there’s no more foreign debris or bacteria in there,” he told Baron. The massive laceration on his thigh is surrounded by puncture wounds.

“The lightest puncture mark is probably the worst cut I’ve had in my life,” he said. One of the shark’s teeth missed his genitals by slightly more than 1 inch and was dangerously close to his femoral artery.

Gruen’s fraternal twin, Jeff, called their parents from the beach right after the attack.

“We were apprehensive,” father Frank Gruen told Baron. “What we told him was to get a report to us as soon as possible. Hopefully, everything will turn out well.

“We’re happy (Kyle) handled this the way he did.”

According to Baron, doctors have told Gruen his prognosis is good for a full recovery.

“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “I didn’t lose any extremities.”

He told Baron he will swim in the ocean again.

“It’ll take more than a little shark bite to keep me out,” he said. “I love the water.”

On Sunday, officers with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement used two boats to comb South Maui waters for any signs of the shark. They were assisted by firefighters in a helicopter and Maui County lifeguards.

Officials reported no real problems keeping coastal waters clear, although “a few” swimmers disregarded warnings and went in the water anyway.

Russell Sparks, DLNR Aquatics education specialist, interviewed the victim on Sunday, but said he was not able to determine what type of shark bit the Canadian man.

Without a bone fragment or an imprint of the shark’s teeth on something such as a surfboard, it would be hard to determine the type of shark, Sparks said.

He estimated the shark was 6 feet long or longer because Gruen described the animal “as big as he is, or bigger.”

Sparks said water conditions were clear and not murky, which generally should be avoided because most shark attacks occur in conditions of poor visibility.

More information about sharks and shark attacks can be found at a state Web site at

Sparks said he will send the information gleaned from his interview with Gruen to the International Shark Attack file in Florida. The information helps scientists figure out why sharks attack and how people can avoid being attacked.

CanWest News Service contributed to this report.

November 13th, 2006, 06:41 PM
thats why they invented pools:rolleyes:

November 13th, 2006, 06:55 PM
thats funny,sucks for me though i live like 25 minutes from there,and am always worried about that kind of thing when i go out there,but the water is just so beautiful i will take the chance

November 13th, 2006, 06:56 PM
why does your location say "" unfortunatley"

November 13th, 2006, 06:57 PM
i would too......nothing like time at the beach........and yours are nicer than ours:(

November 13th, 2006, 06:58 PM

November 13th, 2006, 07:49 PM
Ok what is bsl???And what is the unfortunatley

November 13th, 2006, 07:58 PM
its the whole pit thing you are so over :D i put the unfortunatly thing in after a news story that was wrong about the breed of some dogs and the reaction of the police and animal control.

November 13th, 2006, 08:00 PM
oops....bsl...breed specific legistration(breed bans)

November 14th, 2006, 01:06 PM
got it..;)

November 14th, 2006, 01:57 PM
I heard he was actually attacked by a giant swimming pit bull with gills!!

November 14th, 2006, 02:11 PM
That is one thing great here,everyone has a pitbull,and all the ones i have met are sooo sweetttt......and probably very happy,i always see them at the beach going for a dip,maybe it was a pit bull