DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Two people were pierced by stingrays Sunday in Daytona Beach, officials said.
Volusia County Beach Safety Deputy Chief Tamra Malphurs said the injuries happened about an hour apart from each other.
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According to Malphurs, a 50-year-old South Carolina man was in ankle-deep water when a wave crashed and he said he instantly felt pain. The man did not see anything, but his ankle had been punctured by a stingray, Malphurs said. The man was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center for treatment.
About an hour later, a 24-year-old Maryland woman said she stepped on a stingray, according to Malphurs. A barb was found in the bottom of the woman’s left foot, and she was also taken to Halifax for treatment.
Both patients complained of pain shooting up their legs, Malphurs said.
The animals can camouflage themselves easily in the water and use the barb as a defense mechanism when threatened.
“It’s such an uncommon occurrence these interactions, especially in the surf zone. A lot of times you see people cast netting for bait in the river and estuary systems where you have these interactions more,” said Chad Macfie with Volusia County’s Marine Science Center.
Macfie said they were likely Atlantic rays that bury themselves in the sand.
“They were probably attracted by some coquina clams, some mole crabs, some kind of food source that brought them in that close,” he said. “They bury themselves into the sand and their mouth is on the bottom so they’re feeding on things that live in the sand.”
In 2006, the famous “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin died when a stingray directly pierced his heart while he was diving in Australia.
Macfie said when pierced elsewhere, though, it’s typically not deadly but does require a hospital trip to get the barb out.
“One of the ways you can break down that venom to make it less painful is to put as hot of water as you can onto the wound, hopefully on your way to the hospital,” he said.
When heading to the beach, he said the best way to protect yourself and the animals is when going into the water, instead of walking normally, try to shuffle your feet so you can’t step on anything and the rays will be alerted that you’re coming their way.
No other details have been released.