Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Tourist's Encounter with a 300 Pound Eagle Ray

Daily Mail: A woman tourist was pinned to the deck of a sightseeing boat by a 300lb stingray after it came hurtling out of the sea as she cruised off the Florida Keys.

Jenny Hausch, 40, was knocked down (last weekend) by the spotted eagle ray, which torpedoed out of the water and landed in the charter boat in which she was a passenger.

She was trapped and gasping for air under its 4ft wide body for three to four minutes. 'The ray was slamming this way and slamming that way and she was trying to crawl out backwards from under it, but it kept landing on her,' said boat captain Kelly Klein.

The bizarre incident took place off the island of Islamorada. It came almost exactly three years after widow Judy Kay Zagorski, 57, was killed by a spotted eagle ray that leapt from the waves and struck her in the face while she stood aboard a motor-cruiser off Marathon, also in the Florida Keys. The blow sent Mrs Zagorski, of Michigan, crashing to the deck, fracturing her skull and causing a fatal brain injury.

The spotted eagle ray is also the same species that killed Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin in 2006.He was impaled through the heart by a ray while diving on the Great Barrier Reef, off Australia.

Wildlife experts say that stingrays do not leap to be aggressive, but may jump occasionally to shake off parasites, avoid predators such as sharks, or while giving birth. 'This is not an ‘attack’. These things are not looking to, you know, have a little human meal. It’s just a one in a million chance,' said Officer Aja Vickers (of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

In 2006, millionaire property developer James Bertakis, 81, narrowly escaped death when a spotted eagle ray launched itself at him during a fishing trip off Lighthouse Point, 40 miles north of Miami, piercing his lung and heart with its razor-sharp, venomous barb. His survival was dubbed a miracle by doctors.

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