A California woman was about to snap a photo of her husband holding a yellowtail fish on their 29-foot boat when a hungry sea lion leaped about 7 feet out of the water, bit into the man’s hand and yanked him overboard.
Dan Carlin, 62, was smashed by the animal against the boat’s side and sent his legs flailing in the air like a rag doll before it dragged him some 20 feet underwater earlier this month, he said Wednesday.
Underwater, the sea lion whipped the San Diego accountant side to side.
"After 15 seconds, I thought I was going to die," Carlin told The Associated Press. "I continued to struggle, but thought this is the way I was going to die. It was unbelievable to me."
As quickly as the attack occurred, Carlin was released from the sea lion’s grip. But to add insult to injury, he sea lion bit Carlin’s foot, puncturing the bone.
He managed to make his way back to his boat that was in a bay off San Diego. He and his wife moved it closer to land while his hand gushed blood and he struggled to breathe because of his battered chest. At one point, Carlin said, he lost his vision.
Carlin received 20 stiches for the gash on his hands and spent two days in the hospital.
Carlin hopes his hand will have healed enough so he can go back out fishing next week. An experienced surfer, scuba diver and fisherman, Carlin said he and his wife, Trish Carlin, always took precautions to properly dispose of any guts or carcasses to ensure they did not go in the water.
Still, his experience shows just how dangerous sea lions can be, despite the fact that people often do not fear them, Carlin said.
"So many times, you see videos of cute seals, sea lions, but I'm sharing what happened to me because I want parents to realize these are wild aggressive animals that can take you down," he said. "They should be given a wide berth. At least a small child should do that, but also just about anybody should."
The Associated Press contributed to this report