| | YIKES! - Jumping eagle ray kills boater off Florida Keys
MIAMI (Reuters) - An eagle ray leaped onto a boat off the Florida Keys on Thursday and stabbed a woman with its barb, knocking her to the deck and killing her, a Florida wildlife investigator said.
"It's a bizarre accident," said Jorge Pino, an agent with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The woman and her family were aboard a boat in the Atlantic Ocean, off the city of Marathon in the Florida Keys, he said.
"A large ray jumped out of the water and collided with the victim and somehow the barb penetrated some part of her body, which caused her to fall back and hit her head on some portion of the vessel," Pino said. "We don't know exactly which one of those things caused her death."
Local media said the animal's barb had impaled the woman through the neck.
Eagle rays are common in warm or tropical waters and are often seen near coral reefs. The spotted creatures can grow to more than 8 feet across and have two to six short, venomous barbs near the base of their whip-like tails, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History's Web site.
The rays often swim near the water's surface and can leap out, especially when pursued, but are generally shy of humans.
"All rays leap out of the water from time to time but certainly to see one collide with a vessel is extremely unusual," Pino said.
Steve Irwin, the host of the "Crocodile Hunter" television show was killed by another type of ray while filming underwater on Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 2006. He died when a stingray's barb pierced his heart.
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