Kayaker describes trying to help Maine shark victim

Charlie Wemyss-Dunn heard screams and tried to save Julie Dimperio Holowach, who was killed in the first-ever fatal shark attack off the coast of Maine.
5:19 | 07/29/20

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Transcript for Kayaker describes trying to help Maine shark victim
We begin with witnesses speaking out about that fatal great white shark attack in Maine. It was the first ever recorded there and those new shark sightings that have shut down beaches for two days in new York, Eva pilgrim is at Jones beach, one of the New York beaches that closed for hours after a possible shark sighting there. Good morning, Eva. Reporter: Good morning, Amy. Beachgoers on high alert just off the shore here in long take a look at our drone. You may not be able to see them, but they're in these waters, 16 sharks being tracked by researchers. Sharks that have come frighteningly close to swimmers in recent days and in one case a deadly encounter. This morning, the first ever fatal shark attack off the coast of Maine. 63-year-old Julie Dimperio holowach was attacked while swimming with her daughter 20 yards off Bailey island. Witnesses reportedly saw her thrown into the air by something. And I knew how severe it was. Charlie wemyss-dunn speaking to "Gma." He and his family were nearby and heard the scream. My wife sitting outside at the time, she started screaming my name wanting me to come. I initially thought that someone was in distress out there. Reporter: Charlie then paddling out in his kayak to try to help Julie. I was almost -- I was about to get in the water essentially because I still thought it could be something like a boat propeller or some sort of accident like that and my wife is screaming at me not to get in the water. Reporter: Julie did not survive but her daughter was able to swim to safety. A shark expert now confirming it was a great white after authorities recovered a fragment of its tooth. They say she was swimming in a wet suit and the shark may have mistaken her for a seal. Shark attacks on humans are very rare but populations in the U.S. Are now growing after they became protected in the But as it recover, you know, it's re-establishing its historic range. When you mix that with the recovery of the seal and a lot more people in the water now suddenly we look like their food so occasionally they'll make a mistake. Reporter: Outside New York City authorities closed beach force a second day after more shark sightings there. We saw a fin, so we quickly knew it was a shark and immediately called all the people out of the water. Reporter: Take a look at our drone in Maine. According to researchers there, there are a number of sharks along the new England coast. Some experts think those sharks are moving north from cape cod where they're regularly spotted in search of food. Those schools of fish and seals, Amy. All right, Eva pilgrim, thank you. For more we are joined by shark biologist Greg skomal, the researcher that confirmed a white shark was involved in that tragic Maine attack. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it, Greg. You confirmed this was a great white based on a tooth fragment you found? Yes. Maine officials sent me a photograph of a tooth recovered from the victim and based on the shape of the tooth and the striations on it, I knew immediately it was a white We know attacks are rare. We know fatal attacks are incredibly rare. This was Maine's first but we also saw beaches as we just saw in Eva's report closed for two consecutive days in New York. Is shark activity increasing and if so, does that mean the likelihood of an attack is increasing as well? You know, every summer as water temperatures warm up the northeastern United States, sightings increase and with sightings come beach closures. This is typical. This is what happens in July and August every year. I don't think people should be alarmed because of these beach closings. It's a cautionary move and something I support. And, Greg, I know, one of the things you focus on in your research is why sharks attack. So how do you go about studying the whys behind an animal? Yeah, it's really hard to get into the brain of a white shark so what we're doing is using a variety of technologies to study when, where and how white sharks are attacking. They're a natural prey and hope to use new technologies to answer those questions. Yeah, and what have you learned about it so far? Well, woo what we're finding out is like many other researchers have found out over the years is that there's no simple answers here. We're trying to find those environmental features that might drive the behavior of these animals and nothing is jumping out at us right now but we're just starting the bulk of the research and hoping over the course of the next couple of months we have some revelations. So as your research continues and at the same time we're seeing some increased activity this summer what is your advice to beachgoers? Well, you know, any time humans go in the water there's some level of risk because we're terrestrial animals and so, you know, know the conditions in the area. Know what marine life lives in the area. If you see an abundance of seals in that area, take a precautionary approach. Don't go deep and limit your use of the water. All right. Well, we certainly appreciate that very important advice. Greg skomal, thank you for being with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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