A shocked Seattle-area family is gathering today in Hawaii to mourn the death of their eldest daughter, killed this week in the islands' first fatal shark attack in 33 years.
Marti Joy Morrell, 41, moved from Des Moines to Hawaii 19 years ago when her husband, David Morrell, took a job there.
She "probably swam every day of her life," said her mother, Ann Eernisse of Des Moines.
Three years ago, the Morrells and their three children moved to a beachfront home near Lahaina, on the island of Maui, where David became manager of the Pioneer Sugar Mill.
Early Tuesday (Nov. 26) morning, Marti Morrell was snorkeling about 100 yards offshore from her home with a friend from Vancouver, B.C., when she was attacked by a 15-foot tiger shark, said Maui County police Sgt. Waldo Fujie.
"She was in about 6 or 7 feet of water, just outside the reef," when the shark brushed her companion, then struck Morrell, he said.
Her friend swam for shore, screaming for help. A repairman working at the home grabbed a paddle board and swam out, but by the time he neared the reef, several sharks had joined in the attack. Fearing for his life, the man backed away, Fujie said.
It was the first confirmed fatal shark attack in Hawaii since 1958, said Linda McCrerey, a spokeswoman for Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources. Fujie said Tuesday's attack took place in an area where abundant marine life attracts both tour boats and sharks.
"Local fishermen say the area is a spawning ground for sharks," he said.
The eldest of five children, Marti Morrell grew up in Des Moines, graduating from Mount Rainier High School. She attended Washington State University, where she met her husband. She later earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii.
A former board member of Oahu's Manoa Aquatics Club, she had become active in United Way fund-raising and other volunteer services since moving to Maui, family members said.
Besides her husband, she is survived by two sons, Mark and Keoni; a daughter, Malia; her parents Jim and Ann Eernisse of Des Moines; three brothers David Eernisse, of Baker Lake, Whatcom County, Dan Eernisse of Seattle and Doug Eernisse, of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and a sister, Mindy Sauerlender of Seattle.