POSTED: 10:33 a.m. EDT, October 19, 2006
MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) – A leaping stingray stabbed an 81-year-old Florida boater in the chest, authorities said Wednesday, leaving its poisonous stinger lodged close to his heart in an incident recalling the one that killed Australian TV naturalist Steve Irwin last month.
Fire Department officials in Lighthouse Point, about 30 miles north of Miami, said James Bertakis was in a small recreational boat with two grandchildren Tuesday when the spotted eagle ray leaped aboard and struck him.
“It’s just a real freak thing,” Lt. Mike Sullivan told Reuters, saying the incident occurred on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway, where stingrays are rarely seen leaping in the air. (Watch to see the speckled creature’s face, stringy tail and what’s happened to the victim-- 1:25)
“For an 81-year-old man he’s in really good shape,” Sullivan added, saying Bertakis was expected to make a full recovery after surgery at a local hospital to have the stinger removed from his chest.
“Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, 44, died when a stingray’s stinger punctured his heart off Australia’s north coast last month. It was one of only a handful of stingray fatalities on record.