A Florida woman said she thought she was going to die after she was impaled in the back by a stingray’s venomous tail spine while wading at a beach south of Tampa in Ruskin.
“I was trying to stay as calm as I could,” Kristie O’Brien told FOX 13 this week of the incident at Bahia Beach. “But I was certain that I was going to die because, I mean, like everyone has like this picture of Steve Irwin when he literally was punctured in his chest.”
Irwin, known as the “The Crocodile Hunter,” died in 2006 after he was pierced in the heart by a stingray barb while filming in the Great Barrier Reef, causing him to bleed to death.
O’Brien remained in the hospital Friday, three days after she was stabbed more than four inches deep in the back by a Southern stingray, reportedly missing her lung by centimeters, while leaning back in knee-deep water.
“As soon as I hit the water, I felt like I had been stung by something,” she told FOX 13. She said her husband was the first to see the stingray hanging off of her. O’Brien said she knew not to pull the stingray barb out herself.
Paramedics cut the stingray at the base of its tail while she was still at the beach and its spine was removed after she got to the hospital.
She remains at the hospital being treated for poisoning due to the stingray’s venom.
Although stingray attacks are rare as they generally only react defensively, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends shuffling your feet when you enter the water so the bottom-dwelling fish, which often bury itself in the sand, can swim away before being stepped on.
O’Brien told the station she is expecting to stay at the hospital for a few more days to check for any bacterial infection from the water.
“It’s still incredibly sore there,” she said of her back. “It’s like spurts of pain. And they say that’s just because of the toxin that’s actually in the barb of the stingray itself.”
She added that the incident won’t make her afraid of the water.
“I’ll go back in the water again, probably not in the bay,” she said. “I probably won’t be swimming in the bay. But I mean, stingrays are out there, and we’re in their environment.”