On Monday, 63 year-old Julie Dimperio Holowach was killed by a shark in Maine in the state’s first recorded death in this manner. Now, the kayaker who desperately tried to save her life has come forward to tell his story.
Holowach was swimming about 20 yards off Bailey Island with her daughter when the shark suddenly attacked her. At the time, Charlie Wemyss-Dunn was in his rental house nearby.
“My wife had been sitting outside at the time, she started screaming my name,” Wemyss-Dunn told “Good Morning America.”
“I initially thought someone was in distress out there,” he added.
Wemyss-Dunn sprinted out of the house, and he and his wife went right for their kayaks.
“We paddled out frantically to try and reach the poor woman who was lying immobile,” he recalled. “I wasn’t really sure what the situation was. My wife was sure because she had unfortunately seen the attack.”
The situation eventually became too much for Wemyss-Dunn’s wife, who had to go back to shore and trade places in the kayak with his mother. Finally, they reached Holowach, and it was immediately clear that something terrible had happened.
“We initially tried to keep her head out of the water with a paddle because we didn’t want her to drown,” Wemyss-Dunn said. “My mom held her hand and we gently pulled her in to the shore and waiting there were the neighbors who were able to take her arms and pull her up to the rocks.”
“It really wasn’t a heroic act,” he added. “We didn’t think of doing anything else. That was the only thing on our mind was to get out there and help as best we can. I’m just very upset we couldn’t do more.”
Holowach was pronounced dead at the scene as soon as police arrived. Her daughter was thankfully not injured in the attack.
“Our thoughts are with the family,” Wemyss-Dunn said. “The grieving process they must be going through is unimaginable.”
Shark attacks are incredibly rare in Maine, with this being the first recorded fatal one in the history of the state. Holowach was reportedly wearing a wetsuit at the time, and it is believed the shark mistook her for a seal.