April 30, 2015 / 4:00 PM / 4 years ago

Woman bitten to death by shark off Maui swam every day, brother says

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A 65-year-old woman bitten to death by a shark while snorkeling off the Hawaiian island of Maui loved the ocean and went swimming every day, her brother said on Thursday.

Maui County police said in a statement Margaret Cruse of the local community of Kihei was found floating in the waters of Ahihi Kinau Bay on Wednesday morning and had injuries consistent with a shark attack.

It was the first fatal shark attack in Hawaii since 2013.

Cruse, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, had lived for the past dozen years in Maui where she had many friends, her brother, Bill Cruse, said in a phone interview from Redding, California.

“I have no regrets for her, she did what she wanted to do,” said Cruse, a retired police officer. “She loved animals. Accidents happen, and I think she was aware that nature can be a hard thing sometimes.”

He added that his sister loved the water and snorkeling.

“She went every morning ... she was never afraid of anything in the ocean because she did it so often,” he said.

Deborah Ward, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, said officials closed a stretch of water along the shoreline in the area after the attack but re-opened it around noon on Thursday.

Authorities did not say what type of shark attacked Cruse.

The statement from police did not describe her injuries, but her brother said he was told she had bite marks on her face, upper torso and arm, which was nearly severed.

No one is known to have witnessed the attack.

Savitri Carlson, who is part of a swim group The Maui Mermaids that Cruse swam with, said in a phone interview she was in the water in the area when Cruse was bitten, but did not see the attack.

“She was a very experienced and cautious swimmer,” Carlson said. “This was a freak accident, not a lack of caution.”

An autopsy will be conducted to determine the official cause of death, police said.

The last two fatal shark attacks in Hawaii occurred in 2013 in the same area off the coast of Maui where Cruse died. That year, a man fishing from a kayak was bitten to death by a shark and a German tourist had her arm bitten off by a shark and later died in a hospital.

Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Will Dunham and Sandra Maler

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