Broward County Man Stabbed In Chest By Stingray

October 19, 2006

LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Fla. -- A man was in critical condition Thursday morning, a day after a stingray jumped onto his boat and stabbed him in the chest, leaving a foot-long barb stuck in him, authorities said.

James Bertakis, 81, of Lighthouse Point, was boating with his grown granddaughter and her friend Wednesday afternoon when the rare attack occurred. The woman were able to steer the boat back to Bertakis' home where they called authorities.

"It was a freak accident," said Lighthouse Point acting fire Chief David Donzella. "It's very odd that the thing jumped out of the water and stung him. We still can't believe it."
Bertakis was conscious when paramedics arrived. Surgeons were able to remove some of the barb, but were not able to locate the rest and feared it may have migrated. Bertakis suffered a closed chest wound, collapsed lung and may have to undergo open-heart surgery, rescue officials said.

The roughly 5-foot wide, 30 pound stingray died on the boat, firefighters said. They kept it in a plastic bag and on ice until Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officers picked it up, Sullivan said.

Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, who has been studying stingrays for decades, said the fish are generally docile creatures.

"Something like this is really, really extraordinarily rare," she said. "I've never heard any reports of a stingray attacking a person. Even when they are under duress, they don't usually attack."

"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, 44, died Sept. 4 when a stingray's barb pierced his chest while he filmed a TV show on the Great Barrier Reef.