An afternoon they won't forget

'All I could think about was saving her,' says Laguna Beach man who, with friend, tried to rescue a German tourist attacked by a shark while snorkeling in Maui.

September 19, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • Laguna Niguel resident Rick Moore, left, and Nicholas Grisaffi of Laguna Beach helped a girl to shore who had her arm bitten off by a shark in Maui in August.
Laguna Niguel resident Rick Moore, left, and Nicholas… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

Every so often the image flashes through Nicholas Grisaffi's mind.

The trigger can be a blond woman who looks like the one Grisaffi, a 61-year-old Laguna Beach man, and friend Rick Moore tried to help out of the ocean in Maui last month.

"That arm flashes at you," Grisaffi said.

Moore and Grisaffi, a Tustin elementary school teacher, were planning to spend a relaxing day at White Rock beach, an area known for its snorkeling, on the late afternoon of Aug. 14.

The two arrived in the parking lot but Moore, a pastor and Irvine high school teacher, couldn't find his underwater camera. He spent 10 minutes looking in the trunk of the car and in his bag, but couldn't find it.

Moore, 57, and Grisaffi reached the beach and noticed snorkelers near some rocks.

Then a scream pierced the air.

"It was horrific screaming, the kind you don't want to hear," Grisaffi said. "She had blood around her."


Moore hustled into the water while Grisaffi went to the car to call for help.

Moore reached the woman, 20-year-old Jana Lutteropp, in 2 minutes, about 80 yards from shore.

"She was on her back and had no [right] arm; it was completely severed from her body," Moore said. "At first she said, 'Please help, me I'm dying.'"

He noticed her foot had bite marks and she wasn't wearing a snorkel or mask.

"The shark must have [shaken] her violently and knocked the snorkel and fins off," Moore said.

Moore placed Lutteropp's left arm around his neck and backstroked into shore, against a strong current, he said.

"I began to pray, 'God help us, protect us,'" Moore said. "She was in such trauma so I said, 'Give her peace.'"

Grisaffi gave Moore a break, taking Lutteropp from him and helping her onto shore.

"Rick has a really good stroke, I'm tracking them and not thinking about sharks," Grisaffi said. "I'm thinking about what am I going to see and how am I going to react?

"I took her from him [Moore] and that's when I saw [that her right arm was gone]," Grisaffi said. "I [braced] her body into my left chest. She was limp. At first, she was still coherent, looking at me, but was blue, pale."

Grisaffi carried Lutteropp the remaining 20 yards into shore. He said seeing this woman reminded him of his daughter, who died at age 30 three years ago.

"All I could think about was saving her," Grisaffi said of Lutteropp, who was visiting with friends from Germany. "She was a beautiful girl and there was no way I was letting her go. We prayed and asked people to pray for her.

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