Fatal stingray attacks rare

The best-known case of a fatal stingray attack is that involving Australian television personality Steve Irwin (right), who was known as the Crocodile Hunter.

The wildlife expert and documentary host was filming an underwater documentary in 2006 when he died after being pierced in the heart by a 2.4m-wide stingray.

He was 44.

Despite fatalities linked to stingrays, they are considered docile creatures that attack only in self-defence.

The sting of a stingray contains venom in the form of a cocktail of neurotoxins, enzymes and the neurotransmitter serotonin, which restricts smooth muscle contraction and slows down blood circulation.

Even if the venom does not kill, its sting may very well do so. Inside the sting is a spine with serrated edges or barbs. When the stingray pulls its sting out of a person's body, it may spark a massive and deadly tearing of the muscles.

However, fatal stingray attacks are rare as most occur in shallow water, when a swimmer accidentally steps on a stingray, which then attacks the person's lower body instead of the upper body, where the critical organs are located.

Kok Xing Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Fatal stingray attacks rare'. Print Edition | Subscribe