Eel attack at Stingray City, Grand Cayman

Discussion in 'Accidents and Incidents' started by cruisegirl, Oct 26, 2006.

  1. cruisegirl

    cruisegirl Single Diver

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Santa Clarita, California
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    I haven't seen this posted here but wonder if anyone else heard about this accident at Stingray City in Grand Cayman?? Here's the post of Bigdasher at Cruise Critic.com of their experience at Stingray City.... For the life of me, I can't figure out why someone would encourage the Eel to come out to people.... Seems ludicrous.......

    Please Read If Going Scuba/snorkling In Grand Cayman

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Firstly, I am not scaremongering, I wish I had known about the following before we went scuba diving with a reputable company (often mentioned on this board). As this incident will be investigated by the Dept of the Environment, I am not naming the company

    I will be as brief as possible.

    On our tour, we went snorkeling at the sandbar. Our guide said that he would show us a Moray eel. Which he did. To cut a long story short, guide was then attacked by eel, and substained horrific injuries - and I mean horrific- to his arm. My children inches away from eel. They saw it all happen.
    We get guide back onto boat, guide now semi consious. Another guide from another boat comes over, and tells us, that our company is sending a boat out to pick up injured guide. Mutiny ensues....insist that relief guide ( and I don't even know what company he was from) start boat and meet rescuers half way. It was the worst half hour, my group couldn't believe that a coastguard or sea rescue weren't being set out. Guide was in severe pain.
    Eventually, meet with "rescue" boat. Guide manhandled over ( again, they were clueless as to how to deal with injury). Boat speeds off. We are left with relief guide, who tells us, we are going to continue with planned tour.

    "oh well"...we think, and get on with it as best we can. No choice to stop the tour, and the stingray city visit went ahead, somewhat lackluster.

    When I got home, I looked on the internet, to see if there was mention of the attack. There wasn't. To my horror, I found that this wasn't a one-off incident.

    Our tour company knew that this eel is dangerous, and has attacked several times before:

    http://www.caymannetnews.com/2005/05/837/feeding.shtml

    Despite warnings from the Department of the Environment, tour companies are still visiting the area, and feeding this fish.


    I now discover that the standard procedure is to call the DoE
    Maritime Unit on channel 16 for assistance, but if they do that it becomes
    an official incident. What relief guide did was try to keep it
    quiet by calling the tour office on a cell phone rather than involve the
    emergency services.

    I have since found out that in theory it is mandatory for the boat to have qualified first aiders onboard but the locals tend to ignore this. Our guide may have been qualified in first aid, but our boat was sent out with just one guide on it.

    This incident was completely avoidable. I have not addressed the issues of shocked children, the fact that this eel was inches from them, the panic that broke out on in the water and on the boat.

    Please, please, do not go anywhere near this eel. I am so lucky that my kids weren't attacked. The injuries that it inflicted were incredible.

    I have it on the highest authority that there have been
    "numerous reports of moray eel attacks in recent weeks but no one
    wants to talk to us about them".

    Bigdasher
     
  2. darksquid

    darksquid Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Near Monterey, CA
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    Wow, that sounds rough.

    I'm always amazed at the lenghts and risks people will go to in a "CYA" effort.

    I hope the guide was okay!
     
  3. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives:
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year with
    9,131
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    Yeah, I saw the exact same thing in 1985. It was bound to happen again... or a thirtieth time, anyway.

    Next time you go back, either stand back a respectable distance, these critters are all but blind and will strike at anything, or....

    Let's kill 'em all.

    Kill all the EvilEels.

    Feed the fish, not eels.

    Did the Stingrays attack anyone?

    Man, cross that one off my list.

    Safer just to stay on the Cruise Ship.

    Or... is it?
     
  4. all4scuba05

    all4scuba05 Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Wallingford, Connecticut
    1,444
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    Safer to stay on the cruise ship and dive in the pool...Salt water anyway...
     
  5. shakeybrainsurgeon

    shakeybrainsurgeon Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Pennsylvania
    1,111
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    I dove stingray city last November (see my avatar) and someone in the group asked if anyone had been stung by a ray (pre-crocodile hunter death, mind you). The DM said no, but he wasn't covering up anything because he readily admitted there had been some nasty moray attacks during dive/snorkeling tours.

    In fact, he said that one such incident had just occurred to a teen diver several weeks earlier, a nasty arm wound. To appease the family, said the DM, the tour company (not the one I was with and she didn't name them), came back and killed the eel. As if, the DM continued, that would do any good, since eels stake out territory and within days a new eel was in the same spot.

    We did the dive and, at the end, a DM coaxed the new eel out and began playing with it. It then darted towards me with mouth open, but I stayed motionless with arms crossed and it turned back to the DM. The explanation for this playing was that the eels become less aggressive once they become familiar with divers and since the diving must go on, better to habituate the new eel to us. That's another reason why they thought killing the first eel was stupid --- it replaced a familiar eel with a new one.

    I never felt in real danger because I assumed everyone knew what they were doing. I might have assumed wrongly.

    Is it true that green morays become "habituated' to divers from repeated exposure?:confused:
     
  6. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives:
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year with
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    They are really quite blind. They do sense large objects that aren't moving (very fast) and they seem to have excellent smell senses.

    I have done a lot of fiddling around near them (see my profile page) and they seem rather oblivious to divers.

    The old method was to take a tin can and tape it to a stick. Go feed the Eels. The first time I saw an Eel bite was on Cayman off of Georgetown. The DM forgot the tape and stick and just held out the tin can. The Eel was happily feeding but then chomped down on the can itself and caught the hapless diver's digits.

    It usually isn't the bite that kills you, it's the secondary infection. Eels have notoriously bad oral hygene and there's a lot of transerance of ciky bugs in their bite.

    Can they be habituated? I think they can associate food with handling (touching) which many of them seem to find agreeable, kind of like your cat getting a skritch. I do not believe that they can see divers, per-se, so I do not believe it is a visual ID, more of a smell of food.

    I have wiggled (by yanking a string) a deliciously stinky rotting parrotfish in front of one for 20 minutes. When I got tired and just set it down in front of the Eel, he took it in one bite. They go for the safe stuff, prefering carion.

    They are wild creatures. We decide to leave Ohio or the Cruise Ship (the same thing?) and venture into their territory. You hire a dive guide expecting what? Steve Irwin? Maybe you'll get him.

    Guides get paid for thrills. Some people like roller coasters, some take the next big leap into the unknow and go to Cayman's StingRay City. Wow, won't that be the popular stop this fall! Crikey!

    More thrills? Bigger tips.

    I want to fill my shorts with frozen shrimp and dive with Whale Sharks- I kid you not! I saw it on JackAss the Movie and it looked like the thing to do. But I understand the risks. No one had to lay them out for me, I just understand that Eels can bite and Whale Sharks can flick you into your next reincarnation.

    The same thing applies in Alaska. People get out of their cars and get close, too close, to those cute Moose. Bad idea. Tourists climb into the cages to the Polar Bears (aka: Binky Says: Send More Tourists!)

    If you're going to run with the Bulls, you might get gored.

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
     
  7. REII

    REII Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Coral Springs, FL
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    That sounds pretty wild to me. I have gotten myself very close to Morays on many occassion Lobstering and I have never had a problem. Then again, i have never fed them. Maybe it is the association of the diver with food?

    TOM
     
  8. Leadking

    Leadking Dive Shop

    # of Dives:
    Location: Minneapolis
    867
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    when I dove there many years ago there was an eel the divemasters called "Psysho"**

    My buddy-who was 73at the time- ran out of food and keep a large stingray active thinking he was going to get fed. The stingray finally figued it out and got pissed. He swam off about 50 feet and turned around and swimming as fast as he could bowlded over Brice. He was *** over teakettles across the bottom. we laughed so hard we almost died.
     
  9. DivePartner1

    DivePartner1 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: McLean, Virginia
    868
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    No, CYA is documenting what you did protect yourself, not hiding the evidence.

    What they did sounds like evasion of their reporting rules and a cover-up.
     
  10. Babukins

    Babukins Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Manhattan
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    Eeks! That's pretty scary. My husband and I were snorkeling in FP and our 2 guides decide they want to wrestle this humungous moray eel...lured it out with some fish and then tried to pull it out of its hole...luckily enough it was more timid than aggressive as this eel was huge!
     
  11. Magali

    Magali Single Diver

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    Isn't that the rule?

    I am surprised that some divers would be, not only foolish, but completely disrespectful of these creatures. As I see it, we are guests.
     
  12. DandyDon

    DandyDon ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: One kilometer high on the Texas High Plains
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    You can teach almost any animal to associate people with food. I once trained a large aquarium snail to beg. I'd tap glass with ring, he'd race to the top corner to get ready. I'd come back in 5 minutes and feed.

    Simply feeding encourages aggressive behavior, too. I don't feed anymore, but did some when I was new. I wanted to attract angels for pics, but the triggers and cudas ran them off. One cuda followed me for 30 minutes. Some of my dumber times in the water.

    I've seen a lot of morays hiding, but would not want to be around if anyone molested or fed one.
     
  13. pakman

    pakman Orca

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Hong Kong via Seattle
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    reminds me of my trip to the Similans. We did a night dive where there are some LARGE resident barracudas. According to the DM's, it seems they love night divers as our torches spotlight fish for the cudas. So we would be innocently piddling around in the dark looking for sleeping fish, etc, then flash your torch to your side and see this massive barracuda swimming right along you waiting for you to point out dinner for him!!!

    Same nite dive, had a massive moray race down a wall inches away from without my knowing until the last minute as the other divers saw him and start flashing their light in my mask (I was too busy trying to snap pics of some small critter in the rocks). That was an eye opener.
     
  14. lazyturtle

    lazyturtle Scuba Instructor

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    I used to work at SRC for 2 years. In that time I saw about 3 people get stung by the rays and I never saw anyone get bit by the eels. Two of the three people that were stung were guides. I saw LOTS of people do crazy things to the eels and stingrays, and I was always amazed that more people weren’t injured.
    Now as far as the guy who was bit goes it’s an ugly scene. Not really to much to do about that sort of thing other than immediate first aid and a trip to the ER for stitches.
    When I worked there the DOE didn’t have a boat ready to go for emergencies. Response time would probably have been equal to the boat returning to the dock (which is what the captain should have done).
    As far as reporting (media-wise) goes I can’t think of any reason why it would be reported on. Nobody died, no limbs were lost, the guy who was bit will be ok after some heal-time, after all it’s ‘just a flesh wound’. (not trying to be callous here)
    The way to avoid being bit by an eel: Don’t touch it, grab it, or pull it’s tail. Most animals follow the simple ‘you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone’ rule. While I wasn’t there and you didn’t say, I can imagine the situation perfectly. The guy grabbed the eel or harassed it in some other way. If he had not done that he’d have been ok, eels don’t bite unless they need to. Don’t worry about being attacked by a random animal, worry about the people you’re with doing something to provoke a response.
     
  15. onfloat

    onfloat Surface Interval Member

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Oahu, HI
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  16. Jim Ernst

    Jim Ernst Scuba Instructor

    # of Dives:
    Location: Sacramento CA
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    wow!! very interesting, i dive with and photograph morreys on a regular bases!! never have had a problem YET!!!
     
  17. Hutchel

    Hutchel Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Washington DC
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    I'm in the camp of don't mess with the wildlife - Different environment but the example is worth remembering. We were up in Yellowstone 5 or so years ago and I was chatting with the Rangers. The subject was the Bison and stupid tourists. It seems the Bison do more damage to tourists now than the bears. (They quit feeding the bears in the 80's) Seems the Bison are big cows (more or less) to tourists doscile - (they are quite wild - trust me) -so the tourist walks up to an animal the size of a small mini-van with their camera and the Bison is busy eating - i.e. head down - so the tourist or an accomplice picks a up something to toss at the animal to get him to raise his head for the perfect shot. Now the Bison has a brain roughly the size of a walnut (give or take a few ounces) and thinks ow that hurt - what did that - raises his head and associates the first thing he sees with the pain. Same principle if he happens to get stung when you are standing in front of him. Those horns are really hard and do a lot of damage when being propelled by 1000+ lbs of angry Cow.

    We are guests in their house - treat them with respect - take the pics they give you and be happy (and safe) BTW I love taking pics. Some days I get good subjects, some I don't - Other than occasional bee sting, I've never been assaulted by the wildlife (other than this past summer on a snorkling trip in Cancun where I discovered they regualarly feed the fish - one swam up behind be and tried to nibble on a finger of my trailing hand. - see the connection).

    Lee
     
  18. bubblemonkey

    bubblemonkey Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Nottingham U.K
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    I have seen hundreds of morays and I beleive like everything esle in the sea they should net be bothered.

    we are guests and should behave acordingly.
     
  19. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives:
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year with
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    On a similar note, something from "The Onion" http://www.theonion.com/content/nod...utm_medium=Embedded+HTML&utm_campaign=Widgets

    Scuba Diver Expressing Either Joy Or Terror
    October 24, 2006 | Issue 42•43


    KEY WEST, FL—Fellow scuba divers who witnessed Sam Gemitter's wild gesticulations, inaudible vocal noises, and bulging, wide-open eyes, remained unclear Monday if he was expressing either joy or terror at the sight of something he saw behind a giant coral reef. "He swam back to us pretty fast, but I didn't know if he was trying to get away from what he saw, or if he wanted us to come see," snorkeler Brian Celli said. "He was definitely excited one way or the other." As of press time, Gemitter had not returned his equipment to the scuba-rental booth, either because he is still enjoying the beauty of the ocean depths or is dead.
     
  20. REII

    REII Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Coral Springs, FL
    554
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    That's what I was thinking Don.

    TOM
     

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