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Stingray Jumps From the Water, Strikes Florida Boater in the Chest; 'It's Very Odd'

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LIGHTHOUSE POINT, Florida -- An 81-year-old man suffered serious injuries this afternoon when a stingray leaped into his small, recreational boat and stung him in the chest, Lighthouse Point fire officials said.

The man, identified as James M. Bertakis, was enjoying the sunny afternoon with two family members when the fish emerged from the water. It slid across the bow of the boat and struck Bertakis, leaving a foot-long barb lodged in his chest, authorities said.

The ray, a spotted eagle ray, was at least three feet wide, according to acting Chief David Donzella, a Lighthouse Point fire spokesman.

"This certainly doesn't happen very often," Donzella said. ``It's very odd that the thing jumped out of the water and stung him on the boat."'

When fire rescue officials arrived, the barb was still in Bertakis's chest. He was conscious and breathing, but in extreme pain from the toxins, Donzella said.

Paramedics took him to North Broward Medical Center with a closed chest wound and a collapsed lung.

"He's in pretty bad shape right now," Donzella said.

Hospital officials could not comment on his condition.

Lighthouse Point fire officials recovered the fish and were keeping it in a garbage bag at the station house, Donzella said.

Experts say rays are generally docile animals.

But last month, a stingray off Australia's north coast stung Steve Irwin, the TV personality and conservationist known as the ''Crocodile Hunter.'' Irwin, 44, died when the stingray's barb punctured his heart. It was one of a handful of stingray fatalities ever recorded.

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