updated 4/7/2004 10:35:15 PM ET 2004-04-08T02:35:15

A surfer was killed Wednesday by a shark off the coast of Maui, the first deadly shark attack in Hawaii in several years.

Willis McInnis, 57, was helped out of the water, but died on the shore despite rescue efforts by beachgoers, police and paramedics. He was bitten in the leg and suffered severe blood loss, police Capt. Charles Hirata said.

He said the bite on McInnis was 12 to 14 inches wide, indicating that it was probably a large shark.

Off Kahana Beach
“It has to be a fairly good size shark to do that damage,” said Randy Honebrink, spokesman for the Shark Task Force of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Right now we don’t have any idea of how big or what kind of shark it was.”

One witness told police the surfer missed catching a wave, turned back out and was paddling when the attack occurred. He was attacked about 300 yards off Kahana beach on Maui’s western shoreline.

Only four shark attacks were reported in Hawaii last year, including one in October off the island of Kauai that took the left arm of top amateur surfer Bethany Hamilton, then 13.

In 1999, the husband of Nahid Davoodabadi, 29, of Sunnyvale, Calif., said his wife was killed by a shark while the couple was kayaking off West Maui. Her body was never recovered.

The last confirmed shark attack death in Hawaii was in 1992 when 18-year-old surfer Aaron Romento of Pearl City was attacked off West Oahu. In 1991, a woman swimming near her home on Maui was killed by a 15-foot shark.

'Eat about anything'
Honebrink said there are an average of about four shark attacks off the Hawaiian Islands every year. He said tiger sharks are the most common.

“They do feed an awful lot at things at the surface,” Honebrink said. “They have a nonspecific diet, they’ll eat just about anything.”

Authorities will try to determine the type of shark in Wednesday’s attack by studying the victim’s bite marks.

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