Authorities in Maine said Tuesday the woman killed in a rare shark attack off the state's coast was a 63-year-old woman from New York City.
The shark bite killed Julie Dimperio Holowach, the Maine Department of Marine Resources said. The shark, which was later confirmed to be a great white shark, attacked Holowach about 60 feet from shore off Bailey Island on Monday while she was swimming in a wetsuit.
The Maine Marine Patrol said a witness saw Holowach swimming off the shore of Bailey Island when she was bitten, with the shark likely confusing her for a seal. The group later said in a press conference that "wearing anything dark could mimic a seal," but it's not something they had ever had to consider in the state.
Holowach's daughter was with her when the shark attacked, but was able to escape safely.
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.
"In the face of that situation, the fact that they were able to kayak to their location and bring the body back to shore, was nothing more than miraculous and we certainly thank them," Marine Patrol said.
The rescuers were a man and woman in a rented tandem kayak, said Jeff Cooper, co-owner 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 Holowach, and the other paddled to get her back to shore, said Cathy Piffath, the other co-owner. The kayakers asked not to be identified.
Holowach and her family own property in the area and are well known in the community, which is shaken by her death, said Rob Beal, major of the Maine Marine Patrol. She also used to live on 23rd Street in Manhattan, and attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx before going to the Fashion Institute of Technology, according to her Facebook profile.
Holowach was the former president of Kipling Americas, the popular fashion bag company. In a statement, Kipling calling Holowach "an incredible leader who brought out the best in her team and colleagues. She will be missed by our industry, our company, and as a friend to so many. Our thoughts are with her family at this time."
The woman's family asked for privacy at this time, but said in a statement that they are "mourning the loss of a spouse, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, cousin and friend to many."
It is the first deadly shark attack ever in Maine, and only the second attack there in 200 years. The only other previously recorded unprovoked shark attack in the state was 10 years ago off Eastport, Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said. He said the shark was identified as a great white by a tooth fragment.
He described the attack as “highly unusual,” but added it's cause for vigilance among beachgoers.
“The rarity of this event does not mean it's not going to happen again,” Keliher said.
The 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. Two coastal state parks, Popham and Reid, are not allowing swimmers beyond waist-deep water, state officials said.
Bailey Island is part of the town of Harpswell, about 40 miles 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.
Closer to the city, two Long Island beaches ordered swimmers out of the water Monday after a pair of shark sightings. Red flags were put up at Lido West Beach and the adjacent Nickerson Beach in Hempstead Monday amid reports that a large bull shark was swimming in the waters off the coast.
Town officials say the bull shark, between seven and 10 feet long, was the largest spotted in the area in at least four years. It hasn't been blamed for any attacks on humans, but they say it may have taken two large chunks out of a sea skate that washed ashore. It was not clear if it was the same shark spotted at both locations.
On Tuesday, there were two more shark sightings in Nassau County, at East Atlantic Beach and Point Lookout, Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said. It appeared to be a bull shark once again, and was spotted around 3 p.m. off Jones Beach, according to the New York State Parks Department.
Clavin said there is no swimming allowed at any Hempstead beaches, as well as at Lido Beach. Jones and Long Beach are letting swimmers go in up to their knees.