Hawaii Lifeguard Dies After Shark Attack While Surfing

Shark Warning Sign on the Beach in Hawaii

A professional lifeguard passed away after encountering a shark attack while surfing near the island of Oahu in Hawaii on Sunday afternoon. Authorities confirmed the incident.

The victim, identified as Tamayo Perry, 49, was a City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguard. The attack transpired near Goat Island, as confirmed by Shayne Enright, spokesperson for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department.

Shortly before 1 p.m., a call reporting a possible shark bite victim was received at Mālaekahana Beach on Oahu’s North Shore. The Honolulu Ocean Safety and city’s fire, police, and emergency medical services departments were immediately dispatched to the scene.

Perry was brought ashore by lifeguards using a jet ski, and paramedics officially pronounced him deceased.

Perry, who had served as a lifeguard on the North Shore, joined the Ocean Safety department in July 2016.

Following the attack, Ocean Safety personnel posted shark warnings in the area.

Honolulu Ocean Safety Acting Chief Kurt Lager expressed deep sorrow over Perry’s passing, stating that he was “a lifeguard loved by all.”

“He’s well known on the North Shore. He’s a professional surfer known worldwide,” Lager remarked at a press conference. “Tamayo’s personality was infectious and as much as people loved him, he loved everyone else more.”

“Tamayo was a legendary waterman and highly respected,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, describing Perry’s death as “a tragic loss.”

How common are shark attacks? Deaths?

In Hawaiian waters, shark bites are relatively infrequent, occurring around three or four times per year, according to the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Fatalities are even rarer.

In March, an 11-year-old girl sustained non-life-threatening injuries after her foot was believed to have been bitten by a small reef shark at a popular surfing spot in Oahu. And last December in Maui, surfer Jason Carter lost his life after a shark attack, with witnesses describing the shark as being as large as a pickup truck.

Florida is often recognized as the “shark attack capital” of the world, having documented 16 unprovoked shark bites last year, exceeding any other state or country, with the exception of the United States. The International Shark Attack File reported 36 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark bites across the U.S. in 2023. This file offers a range of safety tips for water activities, including swimming with a buddy and staying close to shore.