Teen Dies in Apparent Shark Attack in New Zealand — the Country’s First Fatal Attack in 8 Years

Jason Duaine Hahn
·3 min read

New Zealand Police

A 19-year-old woman visiting a popular beach in New Zealand has died in what local authorities believe was a shark attack.

Kaelah Marlow from Hamilton — a city in the Waikato area of New Zealand’s North Island — was pronounced dead on Thursday a short time after she was injured in the water while visiting Waihī Beach, a statement from New Zealand Police said.

"Initial indications suggest she may have been injured by a shark," the statement said.

A post mortem will be performed by the coroner Friday to provide a "clearer understanding" of what caused Marlow's death, the department added.

"We appreciate her death was extremely traumatic for those who were at Waihī Beach yesterday and we are offering Victim Support services to anyone who requires it," New Zealand Police said in a statement.

The area where Marlow was attacked is now restricted to visitors for seven days.

Citing local news sources, the Associated Press said Marlow was removed from the water with leg wounds following the attack. Attempts to resuscitate her at the scene failed.

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George Novak/AP Flowers are placed near the scene of Kaelah Marlow's death at Waihī Beach

“You hear about shark attacks, but never in a million years you think it’ll be someone you know,” Marlow's aunt, Kylie French, told The West Australian newspaper, via The Guardian.

"She was obviously out with her friends having a great time," French added. "She was a lovely girl, a fun girl, always bubbly, into anything."

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The incident — if confirmed — will reportedly be the first fatal shark attack in the country in eight years.

The last attack, in 2013, involved 46-year-old film director Adam Strange, USA Today reported. Strange was swimming off the coast of New Zealand to train for a 2.8-mile endurance swim when he encountered a shark.

"There was blood everywhere," a witness Pio Mose told the New Zealand Herald, as noted by USA Today. "The water was red. It's pretty scary. ... All I was thinking was I wanted to jump in the water and help, but I didn't want to get attacked by a shark, too."

A police officer who responded to the scene had to fire 12 shots at the animal from an inflatable boat to recover Strange's body.

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The man was snorkeling with family when he was bitten on the shoulder "almost immediately" upon entering the water

Strange — who won a Crystal Bear award at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival — was a father to a 2-year-old girl.

"He was a very robust, big, barrel-chested surfer," his friend, Adam Stevens, told CBS News after the attack. "He was basically completely obsessed with the ocean, with paddleboards and body surfing, everything. His garage was like a museum of surf craft."

According to a study by the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 64 unprovoked and 41 provoked shark attacks worldwide in 2019. At the time, the United States led the world in unprovoked attacks, followed by Australia.