Shark Attack Hit Close To Home

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - November 03, 2010
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Aaron Romento was attacked and killed by a tiger shark in 1992

It was 18 years ago this week that Viola Ramaila lost her son Aaron in a shark attack off West Oahu. The memories of that day are still vivid.

“Each November marks an anniversary that I’d rather forget,” says Ramaila. “There’s still a hole in my heart that can never be repaired.”

It was about 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 5, 1992, when Aaron Romento was attacked by a tiger shark while bodyboarding in shallow, clear water off Keeau Beach Park. The 18-year-old Romento was about 90 feet off-shore when the 12-foot tiger bit his right leg in three places. Romento died of blood loss a short time after swimming to shore.

“Aaron’s friend said Aaron wanted to catch one more wave,” recalls Ramaila. “He said my son never saw the shark. Aaron never saw it coming.”

Ramaila was reminded of her loss Oct. 22 when 19-year-old Lucas Ransom was attacked and killed by a great white shark off Surf Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, Calif. Ransom’s attack happened just before 9 a.m. about 100 yards off shore. He lost his left leg, resulting in massive blood loss. The shark was believed to have been about 18 feet long and an estimated 4,000 pounds.

The attacks are eerily similar. Two young teens attacked about an hour apart while bodyboarding at their favorite break. Both suffered horrific bites to their legs and both bled to death.

“I know what the family is going through,” says Ramaila. “Whenever I hear about a shark attack, I go back to that day - a flashback of unwanted memories. My son was at the wrong place at the wrong time, just like the boy in California.”

Ramaila has no anger toward sharks. She knows Aaron was in their element. She recalls a reporter from Inside Edition who asked if she was angry.

“He asked, if sharks are considered aumakua (a family god) to Hawaiians, why would a shark bite my son,” says Ramaila. “I told him the shark isn’t our aumakua, but I’m not mad. The shark belongs there. That’s their turf.”

Ramaila says it was a tough week back in 1992. Five days before the fatal attack, she was laid off from her job. She had two job interviews set up that day and still had to pick up her 3-year-old daughter Kristen when her world was turned upside down.

“I miss him,” she says with a heavy heart. “He’d be 36 today. My daughter was only 3, and now she’s 21. It took her years to get back in the water.”

It took me several weeks to get back into the water, too. You see, Aaron was my younger cousin. I was working at KHON2 that morning, covering a sports story at Ko Olina when my photographer and I got the call of a shark attack down the road. We were asked if we could break away. We did, but as we approached Nanakuli we were abruptly called off the story and I was told to immediately return to the station. When I entered the newsroom, my news director delivered the stunning blow. My uncle had called. The shark attack victim was my cousin Aaron, and he had died. This one was personal.

That was 18 years ago, and time has healed some of the pain. Like Viola, it saddens me to think about what happened to Aaron and Lucas, but I’m not angry. I know we are visitors in the sharks’ playground, and if my cousin were still with us, he would agree.

Rest in peace, Aaron and Lucas. Your families will never forget.


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