Woman killed in rare shark attack off Maine’s coast has been identified

Authorities in Maine said Tuesday the woman killed in a rare shark attack off the state’s coast a day earlier was a 63-year-old resident of New York City.

The shark bite killed Julie Dimperio Holowach, the Maine Department of Marine Resources said. 

The marine patrol said a witness saw Holowach swimming off the shore of Bailey Island Monday when she was bitten. Two kayakers helped her get to shore and an ambulance provided further assistance, but she was pronounced dead at the scene, the marine patrol said.

The attack happened about 9 to 12 metres offshore, and the rescuers were a man and woman in a rented tandem kayak, said Jeff Cooper, co-owner of H2Outfitters on the island, which offers instruction, rentals and sales of kayaks.

The kayakers were on the shore when one of them saw something breach and realized something was wrong, Cooper said.

“They happened to be right there at the scene. They were courageous enough to jump in and retrieve the victim,” Cooper said.

One of the kayakers grabbed the injured woman, and the other paddled to get her back to shore, said Cathy Piffath, the other co-owner. The kayakers asked not to be identified.

There had previously only been one recorded unprovoked shark attack in Maine. The state Marine Patrol has urged swimmers and boaters to use caution near Bailey Island and to avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals. Large sharks prey on seals, which are common off Maine.

Bailey Island is part of the town of Harpswell, about 64 kilometres up the Maine coast from Portland. Harpswell is a town of about 4,700 that is popular with vacationers and second homeowners for its coast, beaches and sweeping views of Casco Bay.

The Maine Marine Patrol said it would provide more details about its investigation later on Tuesday.

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