A woman from Florida, Kristie O’Brien, recently found herself in a harrowing encounter with a stingray while wading in the waters at Bahia Beach, south of Tampa. O’Brien, recounting her ordeal, expressed her fear that she might not survive the incident as she was impaled in the back by the venomous tail spine of the stingray.
“I was trying to stay as calm as I could,” O’Brien told FOX 13 in an interview, “But I was certain that I was going to die because, I mean, like everyone has this picture of Steve Irwin when he literally was punctured in his chest.”
The tragic memory of Steve Irwin, known as “The Crocodile Hunter,” who died in 2006 after being pierced in the heart by a stingray barb while filming in the Great Barrier Reef, haunted O’Brien as she grappled with the terrifying situation.
O’Brien’s ordeal unfolded as she entered the knee-deep waters. She immediately felt a sharp sting and, to her horror, realized she had been impaled by a Southern stingray’s tail spine, which had plunged more than four inches deep into her back. Miraculously, the spine missed her lung by centimeters.
O’Brien’s husband was the first to spot the stingray still hanging from her back. He knew not to remove the barb himself, and paramedics swiftly arrived at the scene. They carefully cut the stingray at the base of its tail, and the spine was removed after O’Brien was transported to the hospital.
While O’Brien continues to receive medical attention for the effects of the stingray’s venom, she remains in good spirits, despite the incredible pain. She is expected to stay in the hospital for a few more days as doctors monitor her for any bacterial infections from the seawater.
Stingray attacks are rare, as these creatures typically react defensively. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission advises beachgoers to shuffle their feet when entering the water. This action helps to alert bottom-dwelling fish, like stingrays, which often bury themselves in the sand, allowing them to swim away safely instead of being stepped on.
Despite her terrifying experience, O’Brien remains determined not to let the incident deter her from enjoying the water. “I’ll go back in the water again, probably not in the bay,” she stated, “But I mean, stingrays are out there, and we’re in their environment.”