Leaping 'ray' knocks over and kills woman on boat

Spotted eagle stingray (Photo Credit Reuters/Monroe County Sheriff’’s Office)
A holidaymaker was killed yesterday when a 75lb (34kg) stingray leapt from the water and struck her as she relaxed with her family on the deck of a power boat off the Florida Keys. Judy Kay Zagorski, 57, died in front of her parents and sister, who frantically tried to revive her and summon help after the incident off the island of Marathonin.

Initial reports suggested that the victim was killed by a slash to the neck from the spotted eagle ray’s venomous barb. But officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWC), which was investigating, said that Ms Zagorski had died from the impact, which knocked her backwards and sent her toppling across the deck. 'As far as we have established, it was the impact that killed her,' said Gabriella Ferraro, of the FFWC. 'We found no puncture wounds on the victim.'

The boat, piloted by Ms Zagorski’s father, was travelling at 22 knots (40km/h) at the time. 'This is a really freak accident,' said Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the FFWC. 'There was nothing that the people in the boat could have done differently. It’s just a case where the boat and the ray were in the wrong place at the wrong time.'

Wildlife officials said last night that they feared the death in the Florida Keys risked generating more 'bad PR' for stingrays, a gentle species that uses its barb only when threatened, attacked or accidentally trodden on.

They jump from the water for non-aggressive reasons — often to shake off parasites, give birth or avoid predators such as sharks.

Pain and pleasure
Stingrays are related to skates and sharks
Contact with the stinger causes local trauma (from the cut), pain and swelling from the venom, and possible infection from bacteria
Treatment for stings includes application of near-scalding water and antibiotics

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