Jumping Sturgeon in Florida Kills Girl Boating With Her Family


A jumping sturgeon tragically killed a 5-year-old girl who was boating with her family in Florida on the Suwannee River. The incident happened this past Thursday, July 2, while the girl, Jaylon Rippy, was boating with her family near Fanning Springs. The large fish leaped out of the water and struck Rippy, also injuring her mother and brother, 9, according to a statement by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

On Saturday, wildlife officials stated that a similar incident had injured two adults elsewhere in Florida on Friday. While boating on the Santa Fe River, Colleen Harvey, 42, and her husband Charles, 41, were both struck by a jumping sturgeon.

Rippy, her mother and brother, were airlifted to a hospital in Gainseville. The injuries that Rippy sustained proved to be fatal. The conditions of her mother and brother have not been released.

Sturgeons are toothless and do not normally injure boaters, but they are known by fishermen for their impressive jumping ability. While the fish, which can grow to a length of 9 feet and can weigh up to 200 pounds, are, in general, considered to be harmless to humans, they have been known to injure boaters in the past and sometimes even knock someone aboard a boat unconscious.

Karen Parker, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, said that is was especially unusual for leaping sturgeons to injure boaters on consecutive days. Sturgeons jump out of the water, research has discovered, sometimes to communicate with other sturgeons and also out of the necessity to equalize pressure in their swim bladders.

Parker mentioned another incident of a jumping sturgeon injuring a boater. She said that a teenage girl, 15, was knocked unconscious by one of the jumping fish in May.

A statement by the Lake City area Fish and Wildlife Commission regional commander, Major Andy Krause, suggested that one factor contributing to the frequency this summer of sturgeon jumping is “the low water levels in the river system.” This might lead to even more boaters getting injured during the next few months.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that four people this year, so far, have been struck and injured by jumping sturgeon, not counting Rippy, her mother and brother. Rippy’s death is the first fatality ever recorded on the Suwannee River due to an encounter with the large jumping fish.

The acrobatic prehistoric-looking leaping fish are capable of jumping over seven feet or greater than two meters into the air. They have hard plates on their backs that serve as defensive armor for the fish. A collision with one of them often results in injuries.

A St. Petersburg woman, 50, who was riding a personal watercraft in 2007, was injured by one of the leaping fish. The fish left her with a ruptured spleen and surgeons had to reattach three of her fingers. Still, she had a tooth knocked out and the surgeons could not reattach her left pinky finger.

The sturgeon that jumped out of the water and killed a girl in Florida who was boating with her family was just the latest incident of boaters getting seriously injured by the large fish. While the fish, biologists state, are not deliberately trying to attack boaters when they jump high up into the air, that knowledge is no consolation for the people out boating or fishing who get struck and injured by them. While the fish are not known, in general, for injuring boaters, their large size, bony plates, and jumping abilities can make them dangerous if one collides with a boater.

Written and Edited By Douglas Cobb

Reuters: Leaping sturgeon kills five-year-old girl boating in Florida
Herald Sun: Huge jumping fish kills five-year-old girl in Florida
Belfast Telegraph: US girl killed by leaping sturgeon
Photo Courtesy of jpellgen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons 2.0

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