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Florida woman pinned by giant eagle ray went into 'survival mode'

From Kimberly Segal, CNN
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Large eagle ray slams woman on boat
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jenny Hausch was taking pictures of the rays as they flew out of the water
  • The ray slammed her several times as it tried to get away
  • Eagle rays can weigh up to 500 pounds; this one weighed about 300 pounds
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Read more about these leaping sea creatures at CNN.com's This Just In news blog.

Miami (CNN) -- A Florida woman said she went into "survival mode" when a huge eagle ray weighing as much as 300 pounds landed on top of her on a boat in the Florida Keys, throwing her to the deck and pinning her underneath it.

Jenny Hausch was riding on a chartered boat Friday with her husband and three children, taking pictures of a group of eagle rays as they launched themselves out of the water.

"As I was snapping a picture of the eagle ray in the water, it jumped out and I was able to get the picture of it flying in the air. And then the next jump, the eagle ray jumped straight into our boat, straight at my chest -- 300 pounds -- and knocked me backwards and was flapping around on top of me," Hausch told CNN Wednesday.

"I just basically pushed it off, pushed it off of me and tried to scoot backwards as fast as I could. I think all of us were in survival mode at that point and just doing whatever we could to get away from the ray," she recounted.

One of her sons was hit with one of the ray's "wings," her other son slid off the animal to the floor of the boat, and the ray flew over her daughter as it soared into the air, Hausch said.

"Everybody was able to keep their wits about them and was very brave and ... my husband picked up my daughter right away and made sure she was safe," Hausch said, adding that she knew there could have been a far worse outcome.

In 2008, a woman died after a ray jumped out of the water and hit her as she boated in the Keys.

"I believe the eagle ray hit her a little bit higher in the neck, so we were very fortunate. If it had been a few inches higher, it could have been a much worse outcome. Luckily, the barbs did not hit anyone," Hausch said.

Eagle rays can measure as much as 10 feet across and 17 feet long -- from their snout to the end of their barbed tails -- and weigh up to 500 pounds, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. The spines on the tails are venomous and can inflict serious wounds.

After the Hausches scrambled to safety away from the ray, two Florida Fish and Wildlife officers patrolling nearby came to their aid after hearing the screams.

"We turned around and looked and saw the eagle ray thrashing around in the boat and at that point we realized we had a problem," said Officer Aja Vickers.

Vickers and Officer Bret Swensson wrangled the sea creature back into the water, where it swam away, apparently unscathed.

Kelly Klein, who was captain of the Two Chicks Charters boat the Hausches had rented, said

the animal measured 8-feet across, and probably weighed a good 300 pounds.

"It's just massive, it has a 10-foot tail," she added.

Hausch's children were hysterical, but she and her husband decided to continue the charter in hopes that the incident wouldn't make them afraid of the water.

Vickers said the incident was a "total one-in-a-million chance."

"These animals aren't attacking by any means," she said. "One theory is these animals jump during mating season."

 
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