Authorities in Maine said Tuesday the woman killed in a rare shark attack off the state's coast was a 63-year-old resident of New York City. The shark bite killed Julie Dimperio Holowach, the Maine Department of Marine Resources said.
The shark, which was later confirmed to be a great white shark, fatally bit Holowach off Bailey Island on Monday while she was swimming. It marks the first fatal shark attack in the state's history, CBS affiliate WGME-TV reports.
The Maine Marine Patrol said a witness saw Holowach swimming off the shore of Bailey Island with her daughter when she was bitten. Two kayakers helped her get to shore and an ambulance provided further assistance, but she was pronounced dead at the scene, the marine patrol said.
Holowach's daughter was not hurt.
The attack happened about 30 to 40 feet offshore, and the rescuers were a man and woman in a rented tandem kayak, said Jeff Cooper, co-owner H2Outfitters on the island, which offers instruction, rentals and sales of kayaks.
The kayakers were on the shore when one of them saw something breach, and realized something was wrong, Cooper said.
"They happened to be right there at the scene. They were courageous enough to jump in and retrieve the victim," Cooper said.
One of the kayakers grabbed Holowach, and the other paddled to get her back to shore, said Cathy Piffath, the other co-owner. The kayakers asked not to be identified.
Holowach and her family own property in the area and are well known in the community, which is shaken by her death, said Rob Beal, major of the Maine Marine Patrol. Holowach, who uses her maiden name professionally, was the former president of handbag designer Kipling USA, and she had been on the board of directors of Sea Bags, in Portland, Maine since 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile.
There had previously only been one recorded unprovoked shark attack in Maine, and it was 10 years ago off Eastport, Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said. He said the shark was identified as a great white by a tooth fragment.
He described the attack as "highly unusual," but added it's cause for vigilance among beachgoers.
"The rarity of this event does not mean it's not going to happen again," Keliher said.
The Marine Patrol has urged swimmers and boaters to use caution near Bailey Island and to avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals. Large sharks prey on seals, which are common off Maine. After the attack, officials said swimming is restricted to waist-deep or shallower water at Popham and Reid State Park, WGME reported.
Bailey Island is part of the town of Harpswell, about 40 miles up the Maine coast from Portland. Harpswell is a town of about 4,700 that is popular with vacationers and second homeowners for its coast, beaches and sweeping views of Casco Bay.
Ocearch, an organization that tracks sharks throughout New England, said in a statement: "This tragedy highlights the need to ramp up efforts to learn more about sharks' habitats and movements along the Northeast Coast."