A Michigan woman sunbathing on a boat in the Florida Keys was killed when a 75-pound spotted eagle ray leapt from the water and hit her in the head, according to the Associated Press.
Judy Kay Zagorski, 55, was dayboating with her family in a rented 16-foot fishing boat about 49 miles northeast of Key West last Thursday when the 75-pound ray struck her in the face. The boat was traveling at about 25 knots and the force of the blow killed the ray and knocked Zagorski unconscious, according to the report.
She was taken ashore and transported by ambulance to Fishermen’s Hospital in Marathon, Fla. Zagorski reportedly died shortly thereafter of “blunt force” head injuries.
“It’s just as freakish an accident as I have heard,” says Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in a CNN report. “The chances of this occurring are so remote that most of us are completely astonished this happened.”
Unusual, yes, but not uncommon. In 2006, a South Florida man was injured when a stingray flopped into his boat and stung him. That same year Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin died when a stingray pierced his heart while snorkeling off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Pino says eagle rays aren’t stingrays and can grow to weigh 500 pounds. They have a venomous barbed tail used to defend against predators, but are passive by nature. The hospital’s report said Zagorski was not injured by the tail.
— Elizabeth Ellis