shark attack

Woman Killed in Bahamas Shark Attack Was Pa. University Employee

The Pennsylvania woman was snorkeling with a group of relatives when she was attacked by a bull shark

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A 58-year-old woman who was killed in a shark attack in the Bahamas Tuesday was an employee of a university in Pennsylvania, authorities say.

The woman was snorkeling with a group of five to seven relatives when she was attacked by a bull shark shortly after 2 p.m. at Green Cay, said Royal Bahamas Police Force Superintendent Chrislyn Skippings at a news conference. The area is about a half-mile northwest of Rose Island, a private island off the coast of Nassau.

While authorities have not released the victim's name, the woman's employer in Erie identified her as Caroline DiPlacido. The employer, Gannon University, said she was vacationing with her family in the Bahamas at the time of the attack.

"Caroline was a powerful presence of kindness and friendship to colleagues, students, and the wider community and cherished many family ties to Gannon," the school's chaplain said in a message to the university, where DiPlacido was a project coordinator for the Erie campus’ office of community and government relations. "The news is devastating, and she will be missed."

The woman had no vital signs after the attack, Skippings said.

She arrived in the Bahamas via Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas cruise ship Tuesday morning, authorities said. A private tour boat took her group snorkeling off Rose Island.

The ship was on seven-night journey, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said. It left from Port Canaveral, Fl., on Sunday.

"Royal Caribbean is providing support and assistance to the guest’s loved ones during this difficult time," the cruise line company said in a statement to NBC News.

Family members witnessed the attack and, along with a tour operator, pulled her from the water and took her by boat to Fort Montagu on Nassau, Skippings said.

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.

Michael Heithaus, a marine biologist at Florida International University in Miami, said in a phone interview with the Associated Press 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.

This story is developing. Check back here for updates.

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