Shark feeding frenzy erupts as snorkelers fight to escape ‘unreal’ melee off Hawaii

On a “cage-free” shark tour off Oahu with her father Wednesday, a 24-year-old woman got more than she bargained for when a feeding frenzy erupted around her, Hawaii News Now reports.

“There was a whole swarm of fish and the sharks were trying to get the fish and they bit my arm and then we were freaking out, trying to get to shore, and then they bit my dad,” said Lauren Russell, according to the station.

Regan Russell, 57, visiting his daughter on Oahu, says a shark bit him on the arm as he swam back to the tour boat, KITV reported.

“It was kind of unreal,” he said, according to the station. “It was more the impact than the pain at the moment.”

Lauren Russell said a third person on the tour, operated by Hawaii Adventure Diving, suffered a bite to the shoulder, KITV reported. None of them were seriously hurt.

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services and Ocean Safety confirmed three people were treated at Haleiwa Harbor after the 10:40 a.m. incident, Hawaii News Now reported.

Hawaii Adventure Diving operates free-diving shark tours for up to six people at a time, according to its site. Divers and snorkelers are accompanied by a divemaster, certified scuba instructor and naturalist.

“On a shark snorkeling dive you are likely to encounter sharks, whales during the whale season, dolphin, barracuda, mahi mahi, tuna or any other type of marine life typically known to be ‘pelagic,’” the company’s site says. “This is an underwater photographer’s dream and an item on any adventure seeker’s bucket list!”

The company said in an email the injuries might have been caused by sharks brushing against divers or bites from tuna in the area, Newsweek reported.

A company spokesperson said “bait balls,” in which fish school together in fighting formation, are a very rare but natural phenomenon that occurs naturally in all oceans, Newsweek reported.

“Sorry, not much of a dramatic shark attack story here, just nature being nature in the ocean,” the spokesperson wrote in an email, according to the publication.

Lauren Russell says she doesn’t hold a grudge and would go snorkeling with sharks again, Hawaii News Now reported.

“That was pretty cool,” she said, according to the station. “I got a story to tell. This is a fluke. If you’re still looking to shark dive go and do it.”

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.