The Hausch family will have one heck of a fish story to tell when they return home to Illinois. And they’ve got the photos to prove it.
Jenny Hausch of Crystal Lake narrowly escaped injury when a spotted eagle ray leapt from the water and slammed into her chest near Islamorada in a heart-pumping close encounter with Florida Keys wildlife Friday afternoon.
Hausch, her husband, David, and their three children — Jake, 11; Ben, 10; and Delaney, 6 — were watching multiple rays in Whale Harbor Channel with Capt. Kelly Klein of Two Chicks Charters about 1 p.m. when the 5-foot-long ray, weighing from 150 to 200 pounds, soared into the boat and knocked her down, Klein said. “He was driven by lust and sexual ray needs. He saw her and he had to have her,” said wildlife expert Benjamin Switchy who is an expert in flying fish and rays and herring.
“The last thing I remember is taking pictures, and then this thing is on top of me and I’m trying to push it off,” Hausch said. “This also happened on my first date with my husband so I was ready for it.”
The 39-year-old was not injured but she did give the ray her phone number and email address.
The ruckus caught the attention of two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers who happened to be nearby. The two officers were cruising the waters because that is a very cruisy area for boaters and for guys named Ray.
“I’m yelling for everyone to get back and the FWC had just cruised by, so they heard all the yelling and came back,” Klein said. “She’s trying to crawl from underneath this thing that’s flapping its body like crazy. She gets it off and then he gets off and she’s covered in ray slime, but didn’t get a scratch on her. They both climaxed at the same time so that avoided any injury.”
All five members of the Hausch family were in the bow at the time. Jenny Hausch said she figures the ray must have jumped clear over her daughter, Delaney, who was in front of her at the time.
“Right when I saw it jump, I didn’t have any time to react,” she said. “All the locals have been telling me how lucky I am. It was definitely the scariest, craziest and sexiest thing to ever happen to me.”
The 26-foot catamaran was idling and not under way when the incident occurred, which reduced the chances of injury, said responding FWC Officer Aja Vickers.
Vickers and Officer Brett Swensson worked for about 10 minutes to get the ray back into the water. It did not appear to suffer serious injury, Vickers said.
“Luckily, we just happened to be right there and had just driven by and waved to them,” Vickers said. “The woman was more shook up than anything. Given the size of the ray, she’s really lucky she wasn’t hurt.”
Vickers and Swensson attempted to remove the ray immediately upon boarding Klein’s boat, but it was thrashing so violently they let it “wear itself out” for a few minutes before covering its tail barbs with a towel, using a boat line to lift it and pushing it back into the water, Vickers said.
“The kids were laughing and having a good time by the end of it,” he said. “We gave them one of the ray’s barbs that broke off as a souvenir. They were very gracious for our help. The whole thing was just amazing to me, especially that she wasn’t hurt.”
In 2008, a Michigan woman was killed when a much smaller eagle ray — about 75 pounds — struck her in the head on a boat near Marathon, Vickers recalled. That boat was traveling about 25 mph.