Employee at Erie's Gannon University killed in shark attack while snorkeling in Bahamas

A 58-year-old woman who was a longtime employee at Erie's Gannon University was killed in a shark attack while snorkeling with her family in the Bahamas on Tuesday, the university said.

Gannon identified the woman as Caroline DiPlacido in a statement released to the university community and the Erie Times-News on Wednesday morning. She was vacationing with her family in the Bahamas, the statement said.

DiPlacido, a Millcreek Township resident, was project coordinator in community and government relations at Gannon, according to the university.

She graduated from Gannon in 1986 and was hired at the university in July 2009 as a secretary in marketing and communications.

Gannon: She was 'a powerful presence of kindness and friendship'

In her job as project coordinator, DiPlacido was involved in Gannon's Erie-G.A.I.N.S. initiative, for Erie-Gannon Alliances to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability, and the Our West Bayfront effort to enhance the neighborhood near Gannon, in downtown Erie.

"Along with her efforts to further the mission of Erie-GAINS and Our West Bayfront, Caroline was a powerful presence of kindness and friendship to colleagues, students and the wider community and cherished many family ties to Gannon," according to Gannon's statement, from the university chaplain, the Rev. Michael Kesicki. "The news is devastating, and she will be missed.

"We pray for Caroline as she crosses over to eternity. We pray for her husband, David, her children, David, Robert and Allison; her mother, Olivia; and her wider family.

"Let us remember Caroline with affection and hope."

Gannon said the university will hold a prayer service on campus at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Details from Bahamas police

The police were alerted shortly before 3 p.m. on Tuesday that the attack happened near Green Cay in the northern Bahamas, according to a police statement.

Police spokeswoman Chief Superintendent Chrislyn Skippings confirmed to the Erie Times-News on Wednesday morning that the woman is from Erie. She said the police were in the process of officially identifying the woman and planned to release the name later this morning.

“It’s unfortunate,” Skippings told the Associated Press of the attack.

Skippings told the AP that the woman’s family identified it as a bull shark.


According to the police statement, the woman was attacked when she was on a tour with four family members, snorkeling in the waters northwest of Rose Island.

The family members unsuccessfully tried to rescue the woman, who suffered "serious injuries to the left side of her body," according to the statement.

The police said the woman's family had arrived in the Bahamas shortly before 7 a.m. on Tuesday after getting off a cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean International said in a statement to the AP that the woman died after arriving at a local hospital for treatment and that the company is helping their loved ones. They said the guest was participating in an independent shore excursion in Nassau and had been sailing on Harmony of the Seas, which is on a seven-night trip after departing Florida on Sunday.

Shark attacks in Caribbean mostly occur in the Bahamas

According to the AP, a majority of shark attacks in the Caribbean have occurred in the Bahamas, with two reported in 2019, one of them fatal. That incident involved a Southern California woman who was on vacation and was attacked by three sharks near Rose Island, located just a half mile from where Tuesday’s attacked occurred.

Underwater threat:What lies beneath coastal waters? Beware of sharks swimming closer to shore

In December 2020, a fatal shark attack was reported in the French Caribbean territory of St. Martin, the first such incident in that region.

Overall, at least 32 shark attacks have been reported in the Bahamas since 1749, followed by 13 attacks in Cuba during that time period, including one in 2019, according to the Florida-based International Shark Attack File.

Worries on Long Island:Uptick in East Coast shark sightings has lifeguards on alert and experts searching for answers

Michael Heithaus, a marine biologist at Florida International University in Miami, said in a phone interview with the AP that the high number of attacks in the Bahamas is likely linked to the fact that there are a lot of people in the water in that area and that it has a robust marine ecosystem.

He said the Bahamas has a variety of shark species, the majority of which do not pay attention to people, except for bull sharks and tiger sharks.

“They get to very large sizes, and they eat big prey,” Heithaus said, adding that sharks have incredible sensory systems and can be attracted to food, sounds and smells in the water.

But overall, shark attacks remain rare, he stressed.

Worldwide, there were 137 shark attacks last year, 73 of them unprovoked, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Contact Ed Palattella at epalattella@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNpalattella.

This is a developing story. Return to GoErie.com for updates.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: PA woman killed in shark attack while snorkeling in Bahamas