tampabay.com

Girl tells of being attacked by sea lion off Australian coast

Associated Press
Published April 17, 2007


CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - A 13-year-old girl said Tuesday she used kicks and punches to fend off a sea lion that attacked her as she was riding a surfboard that was being towed by a boat.

Ella Murphy was riding the surfboard off Lancelin, a town 80 miles north of the Western Australia state capital of Perth, when a sea lion leaped from the water, biting her face and neck on Friday.

Murphy said she initially thought the brown shape streaking beneath the surface was a shark.

"I saw it jump out of the water and just saw its teeth come toward my face," she told Nine Network television from her hospital bed. "I just kind of thought: What's going to happen? What's next? Is it the end? ... I really didn't know," she said.

"It jumped out of the water and just grabbed hold of me and shook me and dragged me back under the water," she added.

She said the sea lion, estimated to weigh 440 pounds, released her because she punched and kicked it.

Speedboat driver Chris Thomas said the sea lion resurfaced about 10 yards away from Murphy and would have attacked again if he had not maneuvered the boat between them and dragged the girl aboard.

Murphy lost three teeth in the attack and was treated for a deep tooth puncture wound in her neck.

Marine experts say such aggressive behavior is highly unusual for a sea lion.