Adobe Stock| Inset: Lauren Van Wart / LinkedIn

Neighbors in the Massachusetts town of Lowell were shocked to learn that Lauren Erickson Van Wart, 44, had been killed in the Bahamas while on a trip with her husband. “How can you process something like this? It was a tragedy,” said neighbor Beth Stack-Emerson. “Trip of a lifetime, it’s heartbreaking, it really is. Shocking,” she lamented. “These poor people, they probably looked forward to this vacation for months.” Stack-Emerson described Van Wart as “very nice.”

Van Wart and her husband (identified as a “male relative” in some reporting) were staying at the luxury Sandals hotel, where the average cost per room is $600 per night. While paddleboarding, Van Wart was attacked by an unidentified shark, which dragged her under the water. A Facebook post by Debra DeWeese stated that beachgoers could hear screams, despite Van Wart being far from the beach. She shared onlookers stated the shark was “larger than the rescue boat.” A lifeguard on duty rescued Van Wart and her husband from the water, and brought them back to shore, where Van Wart was given CPR. Her husband was uninjured. Despite best efforts to save her life, Van Wart had “serious injuries to the right side of her body.” She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Van Wart worked as a math editor for Curriculum Associates. The company’s CEO, Rob Waldron, released a statement in response to Van Wart’s death. “Lauren was a beloved member of our math editorial team, and she infused her deep dedication to students and educators into every material she touched,” he said. “Her commitment to excellence and outstanding work was driven by a higher purpose, focused on improving learning outcomes for all. Our Curriculum Associates community is mourning this tragedy and extends our deepest love and support to Lauren’s wonderful husband and all of her family.” Sandals also responded to the attack, saying, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of a guest while on a paddle boarding activity nearly a mile from the shore. We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the guest’s family and loved ones. We remain in close contact with them and are providing all support possible during this difficult time.”

The attack is the second deadly attack to occur in the area in two weeks. A 47-year-old German woman went missing before Van Wart’s death. She is believed to have been attacked as well, but her body has not been uncovered yet. Last year, a passenger on a US cruise ship was also killed. An autopsy on Van Wart is still pending, which may offer some insight on the type of shark that killed her. “We have to see the autopsy reports and we’ll have to see the tooth marks,” said Gavin Naylor, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research. “Sometimes, some forensic evidence is very compelling. Some is more ambiguous.”

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