Leaping fish lands woman in hospital

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A woman in the Florida Keys was knocked out of her kayak and had to be air-lifted to hospital after being hit in the chest by a leaping fish.

The 46-year-old woman was kayaking with a companion in Big Pine Key in the US, when a 1 metre long fish thought to be either a barracuda or a hound needlefish, Tylosurus crocodilus crocodilus (pictured above), was seen skipping over the water and then leaped and hit her in the chest.

Karri Larson climbed back into her kayak but was unable to row back the shore so her companion called a rescue team on their mobile. She was then taken by boat and helicopter to Jackson Memorial hospital in MIami where she was diagnosed with suspected punctured lung and broken ribs.

The Sun Sentinel newspaper quoted one of her rescuers Captain Kevin Freestone owner of TowBoatUS in Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key and a member of the Volunteer Fire Department in Big Pine Key, as saying: "She had a pretty bad chest wound. She was conscious, and she was scared about what had happened to her."

Ms Larson is listed as being in a serious but stable condition.

It is still unclear exactly what species of fish hit her as although several species are capable of leaping from the water, only a few can inflict that sort of injury. Unlike other incidents of this sort, the creature didn't remain in the boat to be identified but disappeared over the side. Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they first believed the woman was attacked by a barracuda, but they later said it was a houndfish, which is shaped like a spear.

"There are several species of fish that will jump out of the water in South Florida," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "The barracuda is certainly one, the houndfish is certainly one, and the king mackerel will jump out of the water. The most likely one of the three is the houndfish. The houndfish and other needlefish are known and documented to get embedded in humans."

Ten years ago, a houndfish seriously injured a 17-year-old girl standing in chest-deep water near the site of Sunday's incident. The fish leapt from the water and stabbed her, breaking its bill off in her neck. It had to be surgically removed.