BIG PINE KEY, Fla. (AP) -- A 17-year-old girl snorkeling for the first time was almost killed when a needle-nosed houndfish jumped out of the water and struck her in the neck.
Stephanie Mittler was recovering Tuesday after emergency surgery to close her wounds and remove two pieces of the fish's serrated bill, including one that came within a millimeter of her carotid artery.
Stephanie, her sister Jennifer and a friend were snorkeling Sunday in the waters of the Florida Keys. Stephanie was standing in chest-high water when the fish jumped from the ocean and struck her in the neck.
''Blood was just gushing from my neck,'' she said from her hospital bed, her voice weak and raspy. ''It was pretty scary.''
Jennifer and the friend surfaced and found Stephanie bleeding profusely. Thinking she had been attacked by a shark, the girls pushed Stephanie onto their pontoon boat and hurried her to shore. She was then rushed to the hospital.
Houndfish are related to needlefish, average between three and six pounds and are feared by fishermen because they can leap from the water and inflict stab wounds when startled.
Laura Mittler, Stephanie's mother, said it is ''ironic'' her daughter was injured by a fish.
''She hates seafood and she hates fish,'' Mittler said. ''I told her the fish gods have gotten back at her for hating them so much.''
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