Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, of New York City, died on Monday afternoon
A 63-year-old retired fashion executive heard giggling with her daughter before she was killed in a great white shark attack had retired early to live her dream life, friends say.
Julie Dimperio Holowach was swimming in a wetsuit with her daughter near Bailey Island, Harpswell, Maine, on Monday afternoon when an eyewitness saw her ‘dip under the water’.
Tom Whyte, a neighbour, saw the attack from his office overlooking Mackerel Cove.
He told pressherald: ‘You could hear her giggling and laughing. All of a sudden Julie just started screaming for help.’
Her daughter swam towards her but ‘all of a sudden Julie went under.’
Ms Holowach’s daughter, who was uninjured, raced towards the shore and screamed for help.
The great white shark was likely to have been in the area in search of seals. There’s a high population on the Maine coastline because of federal protections.
Greg Skomal, a senior scientist with the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries and great white shark expert, said they use Cape Cod as a ‘rest stop on a major highway as they move into northern parts’ in search of seals.
They are not known for attacking humans and experts believe the wetsuit Ms Holowach was wearing may have confused the shark into thinking she was a seal.
‘I think it’s generally accepted that the increase in number of seals is leading to more white sharks coming closer to shore during some months,’ Nick Whitney, a senior scientist at the New England Aquarium, told Maine Public Radio.
Holowach was the president of accessories brand Kipling when she retired to enjoy life in 2016
Ms Holowach, who lives between houses in New York City, Florida and Maine, ran the NYC Marathon with her daughter (pictured) a few years ago, according to her Facebook page
Charlie Wemyss-Dunn, from Boston, and his wife, heard screams and thought someone might be drowning.
Great White Shark attacks in Maine
There have been only three recorded killings by suspected great white sharks since 1936…
July 1936 A 16-year-old boy was attacked off Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.
September 2018 A 26-year-old college student from Revere, Massachusetts, was attacked by a suspected great white shark while body-boarding off Wellfleet, but died after making it back to shore.
July 2020 Julie Dimperio Holowach, 63, was killed in a great white shark attack while swimming near Bailey Island.
Other recorded conflicts between humans and sharks include…
2010 A diver recording underwater video for Cooke Aquaculture off Eastport was attacked by a porbeagle shark — a species more accustomed to colder temperatures than other sharks. He fought it off with his camera and was unharmed.
2018 A Canadian couple reported being shadowed by a great white while paddling a canoe through the bay.
He said: ‘We saw what was in the water. We saw her condition.’
Mr Wemyss-Dunn dropped his wife onshore and paddled back out with his mother.
The pair tried to keep Ms Holowach’s head above water and his mother held her hand as they paddled to shore.
Marine Patrol says she woman was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.
Ms Holowach made enough money to retire early and was living her dream life when she died, a friend told the New York Post.
And she would have been physically fit when she died, according to Karen Murray, because she competed in triathlons.
The mother-of-three ‘decided to retire early because we all did well at VF’, Murray told the New York Post.
‘She made her money, and she wanted to spend time with her family.’
Ms Holowach, who lived between houses in New York City, Florida and Maine, ran the NYC Marathon with her daughter a few years ago, according to her Facebook page.
Jeff Cooper, co-founder of H2Outfitters in Orr’s Island, rented the kayak to Wemyss-Dunn. He said Mr Wemyss-Dunn told him there was a lot of blood in the water by the time he arrived.
Mr Cooper first heard of the attack Monday at around 3.30pm over a scanner and said first responders described a woman with damage to her stomach after being ‘attacked by something’.
He drove to a small local beach to warn swimmers to get out of the water.
Another neighbor, Steve Arnold, said he saw Ms Holowach being lifted up to 18 inches above the water.
Ms Holowach was swimming in a wetsuit with her daughter near Bailey Island, Harpswell, when an eyewitness saw her ‘dip under the water’. Pictured, a boat on the coast of Bailey Island
The fashion executive, who went by her maiden name Dimpero as president of Kipling, is pictured with Helena Christensen at the Kipling By Helena Christensen Launch Event at Gramercy Park Hotel Rooftop on April 10, 2013
The U.S. Coast Guard said it was alerted to a shark attack just after 3.30pm after Holowach’s uninjured daughter, who was in a blue one piece swim suit, swam back to shore. Pictured emergency services on the scene
Ms Holowach retired in 2016 when she was president of Kipling, a Belgian bags and accessories company.
Ms Murray said: She’s one of the happiest, most energetic people with the greatest disposition and zest.’
A year later she joined the board of directors at Sea Bags, a Portland-based company that makes and sells accessories and home decor.
Don Oakes, CEO of Sea Bags, remembered Ms Holowach as a vivacious, adventurous and creative woman who loved living in Maine.
He said she lived there during the summers from May until October.
There has never been a recorded deadly shark attack in Maine before. The only other attack involved a scuba diver in Eastport in 2010, according to Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File.
Bailey Island, Harpswell near where Holowach was swimming is pictured. No other deadly shark attacks have ever been recorded in the area
The incident took place in Harpswell, Maine, and swimmers are now being urged to stay away from schools of fish or seals
The diver was not injured and fended off a porbeagle shark with his video camera.
Officials confirmed there have been no additional sightings of the shark after the initial contact in a press conference Tuesday morning.
They called the attack ‘highly unusual’ and said beaches would not be closed.
Patrick Keliher of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said a recovered tooth fragment confirmed a great white was responsible.
He said people tend to think of Cape Cod as being the northern-most point for great whites, but actually they travel further.
Major Rob Beale of the state Marine Patrol said: ‘Julie and her husband were very respected individuals, and the community is really at a tough juncture now.’
Police confirmed that the Coast Guard was in the process of sending a small boat in the rescue effort but stopped when they learned two kayakers helped bring her back to shore.
There they were met by members of the Harpswell EMS squad.
An expert said the shark may have mistaken Ms Holowach for food and now swimmers are being urged to avoid schools of fish and seals.
Kipling President Julie Dimperio writes on a board at Kipling’s 25th Anniversary celebration in 2012 – four years before she retired
Anne Nearman and Julie Dimperio attend Kipling’s 25th Anniversary celebration. The bags were well known for their furry monkey keyrings
The U.S. Coast Guard said it was alerted to a shark attack just after 3.30pm after Holowach’s uninjured daughter, who was in a blue one piece swim suit, swam back to shore, calling for help.
One onlooker told News Center Maine Holowach had appeared to be ‘thrown up in the air by something underwater’.
Swimmers and boaters are now being urged to use caution near Bailey Island.
Dr. James Sulikowski, a professor at Arizona State University who conducts shark research in New England, said: ‘Shark interactions with humans are very rare in Maine. My guess is that the person (who was attacked) was mistaken as a food item.
‘In this area of Maine and depending on how close to shore the event occurred, my guess it was a white shark,’ he said to the Press Herald.
Sulikowksi said a seal was bitten on Sunday in Phippsburg, Maine by a shark and died later.