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Woman dies after ray strikes her

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  • NEW: Woman's death result of impact after fish strikes her on boat, officials say
  • Victim was 57-year-old woman from Michigan
  • Spotted eagle ray weighed about 75 pounds, sheriff's spokeswoman says
  • Woman, who was with her father and family, was pronounced dead at hospital
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A woman on a boat died after a spotted eagle ray leaped from the water off the Florida Keys Thursday and struck her, officials said.


The dead spotted eagle ray lies on the deck of a boat in Florida.

The force of the blow pushed the woman backward and she died when she hit her head on the boat deck, officials said.

"It's just as freakish of an accident as I have heard," said Jorge Pino of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "The chances of this occurring are so remote that most of us are completely astonished that this happened."

The commission identified the woman as Judy Kay Zagorski, 57, of Pigeon, Michigan.

The woman was seated or standing in the front of the boat as it traveled at about 25 mph out of a channel, Pino said. "The ray just actually popped up in front of the vessel," he said. "The father had not even a second to react. It was too late. It happened instantly and the woman fell backwards and, unfortunately, died as a result of the collision."

The accident happened off the coast of Marathon, about 2 hours by car south of Miami. The woman, who was with her father and several other family members and friends, was taken to Fisherman Hospital in Marathon, where she was pronounced dead. Video Watch marine officers work around dead ray on boat »

Pino said he had seen rays leap into the air, but added, "it's very rare for them to collide with objects." Video Watch experts explain why eagle rays leap »

The spotted eagle ray weighed about 75 to 80 pounds and had a 6-foot wingspan, said Pino. Video Watch officials investigate eagle ray collision »

Florida Fish and Wildlife said eagle rays "are not an aggressive species, but they do tend to leap from the water." Spotted eagle rays can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet and can weigh 500 pounds, it said. Learn more about eagle rays »

Television personality Steve Irwin was killed when a ray's barb pierced his heart in September 2006.


A month later, an 81-year-old Florida man, James Bertakis, survived after a ray leapt from the water and stung him in the heart, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

He spent five weeks on a ventilator and his recovery took several months, his sons told the Detroit Free Press in his former home state of Michigan. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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