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Florida woman impaled by stingray near beach, missed puncturing her lungs by an inch: 'I was certain that I was going to die'
YouTube Fox 13 Tampa Bay Video Screenshot

Florida woman impaled by stingray near beach, missed puncturing her lungs by an inch: 'I was certain that I was going to die'

A Florida woman was certain she was going to die after being impaled by a stingray while wading in the water close to the beach on Tuesday afternoon. The venomous barb came within an inch of puncturing her lungs.

Kristie Cataffo-O’Brien, of Tampa, was visiting nearby Bahia Beach in Ruskin, Florida. Cataffo-O’Brien tried to cool off by relaxing in the knee-deep waters of Tampa Bay. Suddenly, Cataffo-O’Brien felt a sharp pain.

"I felt something sting me right away. I felt like it was a jellyfish maybe or something, but it was super, super painful,” Cataffo-O’Brien told WFLA. "I started to stand up, and that’s when [her husband] was like, 'No, don’t move at all, there’s a stingray and it’s on you.'"

Her husband attempted to hold the stingray steady, but the animal kept thrashing around, digging the animal's sharp spine deeper into Kristie's back.

"The stingray was moving and flopping around and anytime there was a wave, or anything moved, I could feel the barb just driving into my back," Cataffo-O’Brien explained.

"I was trying to stay as calm as I could," Cataffo-O'Brien 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."

Irwin, best known as the "The Crocodile Hunter," died in September 2006 after he was pierced in the heart by a stingray barb while filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Cataffo-O’Brien narrowly missed a situation that could have been worse because the venomous spike came within about an inch of puncturing her lungs.

911 was called, but it took 45 minutes for first responders to arrive. While still at the beach, paramedics cut the stingray at the base of its tail. However, two barbs were still buried in her upper back.

Cataffo-O’Brien was rushed to the hospital, where doctors surgically removed the barbs.

Kristie said of her back, "It's still incredibly sore there. It's like spurts of pain. And they say that's just because of the toxin that's actually in the barb of the stingray itself."

She is expected to remain hospitalized for a few more days over concerns regarding the stingray's venom.

Cataffo-O’Brien said she plans on going back in the water, but maybe not in Tampa Bay.

"I'll go back in the water again, probably not in the bay," Kristie said. "I probably won't be swimming in the bay. But I mean, stingrays are out there, and we're in their environment."

She added, "We're kind of at the mercy of the marine life. This is their territory, it’s not our territory. I lived in Florida for a very long time. You never think anything like that can happen, and I’m still in shock."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission notes that the southern stingray is a non-aggressive species that "scavenges the surf zone for food." Humans can accidentally step on stingrays as the animal buries itself under the sand. Those in shallow waters of Florida should do a "stingray shuffle," shuffling your feet in the sand to scare off any stingrays.

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(WARNING: Graphic video)

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