'Fluke' Shark Attack Sees Three People Bitten Off Hawaii Coast: 'We Were Freaking Out'

Three people on a snorkeling trip off the coast of Hawaii this week were lucky to escape with minor injuries after a close encounter with several feeding sharks.

The incident happened shortly after 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday off Haleiwa, during a free-driving tour being operated by Hawaii Adventure Diving. The customers got more than they paid for as several sharks swarmed into the area in a frenzy while chasing after a school of fish.

Lauren Russell, 24, was in the water at the time alongside her father, 57, and a 31-year-old man who has not yet been identified, local media outlet Hawaii News Now reported.

"At first there was like two sharks and then there was a whole swarm of fish," Russell said. "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." It is unclear how many sharks were involved.

"I just got bit on the arm, I got grazed on the leg, but I think that's more of a scratch than a bite. My dad got bit on the forearm and the other guy got bit on the chest," Russell added.

The three bite victims were taken to a nearby harbor for treatment but did not go to hospital. Hawaii Adventure Diving did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to its website, the company specializes in freediving snorkel trips in which customers, at $150 per person, stay close to the top of the water and observe wildlife without protective cages.

"You will come away with so much more than just bragging rights," its website says, noting that customers are likely to see a variety of marine life, including sharks, dolphins and barracuda.

At least one of the shark bite victims agreed. "I got a story to tell," Russell said. "This is a fluke. If you're still looking to shark dive go and do it. It was a fun experience and I would do it again."

A spokesperson for Adventure Diving told Newsweek the situation was extremely rare at the dive site, saying via email: "'Bait balls' occur randomly and rather spontaneously in all oceans, a phenomenon that typically lasts around 10 minutes where smaller fish school together in tight formation.

"Previous to the bait ball showing up there were only two Sandbar sharks in the area. While divers left the water and got onto the boat some possibly got brushed by the shark's rough skin causing abrasions to the arm and shoulder, or by the tuna (fins/tails) that were also present.

"One very small cut on the hand occurred, no confirmation if it was a bite from one of the sharks, a fin or tooth from the Tuna which were also there for the bait ball, or happened in some other way. The customers hung around for about an hour at the harbor after the boat docked.

"None accepted EMT/ambulance service, and all left with an exciting story and smiles on their faces, in their own vehicles. One gal Lauren encouraged people to 'just do it.' Sorry, not much of a dramatic shark attack story here, just nature being nature in the ocean."

According to the Hawaii government's website, there are approximately 40 species of shark that currently call Hawaiian waters home, ranging from the pygmy shark, about 8 inches) to the massive whale shark, which reaches up to 50 feet or more.

It says that about eight species are "somewhat common" in Hawaii's nearshore waters. The most frequently encountered are the whitetip reef, sandbar, scalloped hammerhead and tiger. "Inshore species are top-level carnivores, feeding primarily on fishes," the site notes.

In August, a 26-year-old woman was injured in a shark attack while snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii. Local media reported she suffered injuries to her lower back and right hip.

The victim, unnamed, released a letter from the hospital, describing the moment that she was bitten. "The shark knew it had made a mistake; that I wasn't its natural prey," she wrote. "It let go. I looked back and saw the shark's face out of the water as it turned and swam away. Then, my natural instincts took over. I knew I had to make it to shore, and screamed for help."

This article has been updated with comment from Hawaii Adventure Diving.

Great White Shark
Great White Sharks seasonally gather off the coast of Guadalupe Island; divers dive inside cages off the boat Nautilus Explorer in order to safely swim with the sharks on September 15, 2016. Dave J Hogan/Getty