• U.S.
  • hawaii

Lifeguard Dies After Being Attacked by Shark While Surfing in Hawaii

3 minute read

A professional lifeguard died after he was attacked by a shark while surfing off the island of Oahu in Hawaii on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

City and County of Honolulu Ocean Safety lifeguard Tamayo Perry, 49, died in the attack near Goat Island, Shayne Enright of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in a statement.

Honolulu Ocean Safety and the city’s fire, police and emergency medical services departments responded to Mālaekahana Beach on Oahu’s North Shore just before 1 p.m. after a caller reported seeing a man who appeared to have suffered shark bites, Enright said.

Lifeguards brought Perry to shore by jet ski and paramedics assisted with the death pronouncement, Enright said.

Perry, who worked as a lifeguard on the North Shore, began his career with the Ocean Safety department in July 2016, Enright said.

Ocean Safety personnel posted shark warnings in the area following the attack, Enright said.

Honolulu Ocean Safety Acting Chief Kurt Lager said Perry was “a lifeguard loved by all.”

“He’s well known on the North Shore. He’s a professional surfer known worldwide,” Lager said at a news 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, calling Perry’s death “a tragic loss.”

How common are shark attacks? Deaths?

Shark Jaws
Scott Sansenbach—Getty Images

In the waters off of Hawaii, incidents of sharks biting people are “very rare,” occurring about three or four times per year, according to the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Fatalities are even less common—but not unheard of.

In March, an 11-year-old girl suffered non-life-threatening injuries after her foot was believed to have been bitten by a small reef shark at a popular surf spot in Oahu. And last December in Maui, surfer Jason Carter died after being bitten and pulled underwater by a shark that witnesses said was as big as a pickup truck.

Meanwhile, Florida is known as the “shark attack capital” of the world, recording 16 unprovoked shark bites last year, more than any other state or country besides the U.S. In 2023, there were 36 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark bites across the U.S., of which two were fatal, according to the International Shark Attack File, which offers a number of tips to reduce your risk in the water, including swimming with a buddy and staying close to shore.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com