The 63-year-old woman from New York City killed by a shark in Maine on Monday was swimming with her daughter at the time of the vicious attack off Harpswell’s Bailey Island.
Julie Dimperio Holowach — who has vacationed for years with her family in Maine — is the first person to die from a shark attack in Maine’s history, Maine Marine Patrol Commissioner Patrick Keliher said at a Tuesday press conference.
Holowach was swimming with her daughter about 20 yards from the shore when she was attacked. Holowach was wearing a wetsuit at the time.
“I first want to express my condolences to Julie’s friends and family,” Keliher said, “and specifically to thank the individuals who responded, and helped bring the situation to a quick closure by helping bring her to shore where unfortunately she was pronounced deceased by the local EMS.”
Holowach’s daughter was not injured.
Officials were able to recover a fragment of a shark tooth after the attack near White Sails Lane, and Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries positively identified the tooth as belonging to a great white shark.
This is the only confirmed fatal shark attack in Maine’s history, Keliher said. The only other confirmed shark attack in Maine was 10 years ago near Eastport.
“I want to stress that this is a very highly unusual event,” he said.
While a New York City resident, Holowach and her family have spent summers in Maine.
“Julie and her husband are well-known, very respected individuals, and the community is really at a tough juncture trying to process yesterday’s event,” said Major Rob Beal of the Maine Marine Patrol.
Holowach was in the accessories business as the former president of Kipling’s North American division. Holowach was also a board member of Sea Bags in Maine.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we share our feeling of loss with Julie’s family. We will deeply miss Julie’s enthusiasm and positive spirit,” Sea Bags CEO Don Oakes said in a statement.
Swimmers and boaters are urged to use caution near Bailey Island and to avoid swimming near schooling fish or seals.
Since 2012, sharks have attacked people three times off of Wellfleet and Truro on Cape Cod. Two years ago, 26-year-old Arthur Medici was killed while boogie-boarding at Newcomb Hollow Beach in Wellfleet — the first shark attack fatality in 82 years in Massachusetts.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy wrote on Facebook, “First and foremost, our sincerest condolences to the loved ones of the woman who lost her life off Harpswell coast in Maine. Though sightings are relatively rare, white sharks have long been known to be seasonal inhabitants of the Gulf of Maine, and they have been observed preying on seals and porpoises in Maine’s coastal waters. Sightings data, catch records, and tagging data indicate white sharks occur in the region from the early summer through the fall.”