Stingray knocks teenager unconscious

Rays like this jumping cownose, often leap out of water, but few ever collide with a human while doing so.
Rays like this jumping cownose, often leap out of water, but few ever collide with a human while doing so.

Teen also suffered bruised lungs, brain swelling

Eighteen-year-old Levi Dixon of Bluffton, South Carolina, was riding a Jet Ski in Hilton Head Island’s Skull Creek this past weekend when a stingray (or possibly a cownose ray) knocked him off the craft and unconscious. The encounter left the teen, who was working at his job with Sea Monkeys Watersports, with bruised lungs, two broken ribs, and brain swelling.

Luckily for Dixon, Thomas McDaniel and Joanna Whipple were in a boat nearby and saw the strange incident. They rushed to his aid, and McDaniel held Dixon’s head above water while supporting his body. Whipple called 911, and pretty soon, another boater came by to offer assistance.

With EMS waiting on shore, they were able to get Dixon onto the boat and take him to meet the responders. From there, he was taken to the hospital in Hilton Head, then Savannah, where he stayed until Monday.

McDaniel said the ray was about 4 feet wide and 30 pounds or bigger. And he said he only saw the whole thing because a koozie had flown out of his boat, prompting him to turn around. That’s when he saw the big ray go airborne and knock Dixon into the water.

Dixon doesn’t remember any of it

“I just remember going out on one of the (Jet) Skis to help with some customers that were falling behind. And that was the last thing I remember. I woke up in Hilton Head Hospital,” said Dixon.

SCDNR public information officer David Lucas said the DNR responded to the call. First Sgt. Adam Henderson told Lucas that seeing a case like this was a new one in his 13 years on the job. But, Henderson said, Hilton Head’s nearshore waters fill up with rays in the spring and summer. He also said it’s not at all uncommon to see them jump out of the water.

“It’s just very long odds that one would jump at the exact right time to impact a boater,” said Lucas.

Dixon said he’s thankful for McDaniel and Whipple being in the right place at the right time to help him. And he’s just as thankful for the responders and everyone else who has helped him. Without that koozie flying out of McDaniel’s boat, Dixon realizes he could have drowned.

“It was definitely a miracle,” said Dixon, who is hopeful his recovery won’t take more than a few weeks.

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