Woman killed by leaping eagle ray

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A woman has been killed by a leaping ray in a bizarre accident off the Florida Keys.

The Spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, collided with Judy Kay Zagorski, of Michigan, while she was aboard a boat with her family.

All rays leap out of the water from time to time but certainly to see one collide with a vessel is extremely unusual, said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It is believed that it was the impact of the collision that killed Zagorski, rather than the venomous spine on the rays tail.

The ray, which had a wingspan of over 1.5 metres and weighed 36 kg, also died in the collision.

Spotted eagle rays, which can attain a 3 metre wingspan, are widespread and can be found in the Western Atlantic near Florida.

They inhabit shallow bays and coral reefs, swimming close to the waters surface, and are listed as ~near threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Rays jump to escape a predator, give birth and shake off parasites," said Lynn Gear of Theater of the Sea marine animal park in Florida Keys. They do not attack people.