HARPSWELL, Maine (CBS) — Authorities have identified the woman who died in a shark attack off Bailey Island in Maine Monday afternoon as a 63-year-old from New York City. The Maine Department of Marine Resources said her name is Julie Dimperio Holowach.
Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said Holowach and her daughter were about 20 yards from shore when the attack happened. Kayakers brought her to the beach where first responders were waiting, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Enough of us knew Julie so we’re deeply saddened,” said witness Tome Whyte. “Alex was a couple of strokes ahead of Julie and Julie started screaming, it’s like a car crash, it’s not a normal scream.”
It is only the second unprovoked shark attack in Maine’s recorded history.
“This is a highly unusual event,” Keliher said. “This is the only confirmed fatality in Maine waters from a shark attack.”
Swimmers and boaters are urged to use caution near Bailey Island and avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals.
First responders were able to recover a fragment of a tooth, which Massachusetts shark expert Greg Skomal was able to positively identify as that of a great white shark, according to Keliher.
“The white shark is well documented in the gulf of Maine, even beyond the gulf of Maine into higher latitudes,” said Skomal.
He has tagged 210 white sharks off Cape Cod. “Many of them are transient visitors, which means they continue on into the Gulf of Maine.”
Officials say Holowach was wearing a wet suit and the shark may have mistaken her for a seal.
Dr. James Sulikowski has also studied sharks in New England for years. “White sharks feed on seals, that’s their food. So if you’ve got a growing of a marine mammal that’s a primary food source of a white shark, they’re going to check that out and they’re going to want to take advantage of that food source.