Boston woman killed in shark attack while vacationing in the Bahamas has been identified

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Massachusetts woman died after being attacked by a shark while paddle boarding in the Bahamas on Monday morning.

Royal Bahamas Police identified the 44-year-old local woman as Lauren Erickson Van Wart.

Van Wart was traveling from Boston with a male relative to Sandals Royal Bahamian resort in Nassau, Bahamas for vacation.

Police said she and her relative were paddle boarding away from the shoreline at the rear of a resort in western New Providence when she was bitten by a shark.

A lifeguard on duty rescued Van Wart and her relative by boat.

“CPR was administered to the victim. However, she suffered serious injuries to the right side of her body, including the right hip region and also her right upper limb,” police said.

Van Wart was pronounced dead on the scene, police said.

Dr. Gavin Naylor is the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida He says, from what is known about shark behavior, this fatal attack while the victim was paddle boarding, not surfing, is out of the ordinary.

“It was a bit of a surprise that she was paddleboarding. Surfers get bitten far more frequently than paddleboarders because they are lying down and they are splashing.”

Dr. Naylor says there are dozens of shark species in the Caribbean, including large tiger and bull sharks. But says that even those large predators seek to avoid human contact.

Research biologists will study this fatal attack to better understand what happened, and how these encounters can be avoided.

Greg Skomal, a shark biologist with the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries is also looking into the cause of the attack.

“What we would try to get as much information as possible that would try to give us a sense of why this happened,” Skomal told Boston 25.

This is the third fatal shark attack since September of 2022 for the country. Only two weeks ago a German woman went missing after a shark encounter while diving. In September 2022, a 58-year-old American woman was killed in a shark attack while snorkeling with her family in the waters of New Providence.

“A couple of species have been implicated in attacks in the Bahamas the bull shark certainly the tiger,” said Skomal.

Skomal advises everyone who travels to potentially shark-infested waters to keep on the lookout for potential prey, stay close to safety, and learn what threats may be lurking below.

“These are things to be taken seriously and people needed to be educated about them,” he added.

Dr. Naylor echoed that sentiment. “I think people planning to go on vacation in the Caribbean should continue to do so. And should enjoy themselves, enjoy the water, but don’t be reckless,” he said.

Dr. Naylor said he would best advise people not to go swimming alone, and avoid swimming at night, or at dawn or dusk when sharks are feeding.

This remains an active and ongoing investigation.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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