Woman killed by great white in Maine “just started screaming”

Witnesses describe horrific final moments of former fashion exec killed in the state’s first fatal shark attack.


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great white shark breaching the water
File photo of a great white shark
(Wikimedia Commons)

A recently retired New York City fashion executive killed Monday by a great white shark while swimming off the coast of Maine “just started screaming,” according to a neighbor who witnessed the horrendous attack from the safety of the shore.

One minute Julie Dimperio Holowach was “giggling and laughing” as she swam with her daughter at around 3.30 p.m. roughly 20 yards off Bailey Island, where she has a summer home, Tom Whyte told the Portland Press Herald.

Next thing, the 63-year-old, who retired as president of handbag company Kipling North America in 2016, “[a]ll of a sudden … started screaming for help,” according to Whyte.

Julie Dimperio Holowach in an undated LinkedIn profile photo
(Julie Dimperio/LinkedIn)

As Holowach’s daughter began swimming towards her mother, Holowach “was pulled under” in a flash, said Whyte, who saw the attack unfold through binoculars from his second-story office overlooking the island’s Mackerel Cove.

Another witness, Steve Arnold, told the paper that the sound of a scream made him turn around to see Holowach pushed out of the water.

“I saw her lift a little bit out of the water … 12 to 18 inches maybe,” he said.

At that point Holowach’s daughter swam to the shore screaming for help.

Two kayakers, identified by the Press Herald as Charlie Wemyss-Dunn and his mother, paddled out to help Holowach and bring her back to the shore.

“We saw what was in the water. We saw her condition,” Wemyss-Dunn told the paper.

“It was traumatic for the people who had the courage to go out there and retrieve (her). There was a lot of blood in the water,” Jeff Cooper, who rented the kayak to the Wemys-Dunns, told the Press Herald. “They had strong character to go out there and do that. They did what had to be done. We should all be thankful people like that exist.”

Once ashore, Holowach was immediately pronounced dead by responding paramedics.

Experts identified the shark responsible for the attack as a great white by examining a recovered tooth fragment.

Holowach was probably mistaken for a seal due to the wetsuit she was wearing at the time, Maine officials said at a press conference Tuesday.

Marine authorities are warning swimmers and water recreationists to avoid schools of fish and seals, which attract sharks.

“Shark interactions with humans are very rare in Maine,” said James Sulikowski, who is conducting shark research in the state for Arizona State University.

Holowach’s death marks the state’s first recorded fatal shark attack, he said.

The only other report of an unprovoked attack in Maine waters involved a scuba diver in Eastport in 2010, according to the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File. The diver managed to fend off a porbeagle shark with his video camera and was not injured.

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