A Florida woman almost died the same way as Steve Irwin, when a stingray’s tail stabbed through her back.
Kristie Cataffo-O’Brien, from Tampa, was enjoying a visit to Bahia Beach in Ruskin, Florida, when her vacation nearly ended in tragedy.
When she sat down in the shallow water to escape the scorching heat of Tampa Bay, she immediately felt a stabbing pain in her back.
Cataffo-O’Brien said that she felt some kind of animal sting her, and initially believed that she had been attacked by a jellyfish.
When she started to stand up, her husband saw that her animal attacker was a stingray, and it was still attached to her body, so he warned her not to move.
Her husband attempted to control the stingray, but the creature continued to thrash, driving its sharp spine further into Cataffo-O’Brien.
The stingray had pierced her upper back, near her right shoulder, and anytime it moved, or she was hit by a wave, Cataffo-O’Brien felt the barb going deeper into her back.
While Tampa native was afraid that she was going to meet a fate similar to “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, who was killed in September 2006, when a stingray barb pierced his heart, it was his death that actually saved her.
Because Irwin famously died by reactively yanking the barb out of his chest, Cataffo-O’Brien knew not to try to pull the animal’s stinger out of her body.
“I was trying to stay as calm as I could,” she told FOX 13. “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.”
She attempted to stay as still as possible until in the 45 minutes it took for first responders to arrive.
While she was still in the water, paramedics cut the stingray’s tail with sheers, then transported her to the hospital, where surgeons successfully removed the barbs, which were just centimeters away from piercing her lung.
Though the incident happened last Tuesday, she remained in the hospital for several days to be treated for the poisoning caused by the stingray’s venom, which has left the wound “incredibly sore.”
Despite the harrowing ordeal, Cataffo-O’Brien won’t stay out of the ocean forever.
“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.”
“We’re kind of at the mercy of the marine life. This is their territory, it’s not our territory,” the mother of three noted.
“I lived in Florida for a very long time. You never think anything like that can happen, and I’m still in shock.”