CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake woman narrowly escaped a fate similar to that of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin last week while vacationing in the Florida Keys.
Hausch and her family had chartered a tour boat, and after a trip to a sandbar, the Hauschs got back into the boat to go fishing and noticed a group of eagle rays swimming nearby.
"I had my camera and the charter captain swung back around for me to get a picture of them," Hausch said. "It jumped up, and I got a cool picture of it from 50 feet away. We found out later that eagle rays jump twice. The second jump came right up to the boat."
Before they knew it, the ray was up close and personal.
"The wing hit my son Jake and knocked him down and then came full force onto my chest and knocked me down onto the floor," Hausch said. "My other son Ben slipped on the wing of the eagle ray and fell on the floor. My husband, Dave, picked up my 6-year-old daughter, Delaney, and passed her to me over the eagle ray."
Hausch said that at the time of the incident, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was near their boat and heard the tourists' screams. The wildlife commission then did a U-turn and came back to help get the eagle ray out of the boat.
Hausch said she feels very fortunate that the incident didn't turn out worse.
"I think we were all very close to serious injury, especially if it had hit me a couple of inches higher in the neck," Hausch said. "The same thing happened to another lady in Marathon, and she passed away from a head injury. We were all very lucky."
Even though the incident was a scary one, Hausch and her family are glad to know that the eagle ray was able to swim away from the ship. It didn't do so before leaving behind a unique souvenir, however.
"During the rescue the barb came off," Hausch said. "It's something we'll always remember."
Hausch and her family are still in the Florida Keys and said that this boating scare wasn't enough to turn them off of navigating the deep in the future.
"Actually we ended up staying out there after this happened," Hausch said. "My boys went fishing and my husband went snorkeling and we ended up staying out there for an hour more. We don't want the kids to be afraid of the water."