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‘Stingray stings are fairly common’: What to do if you spot a stingray in Myrtle Beach

Stingray jumped out of the water near Hilton Head — and almost killed a Bluffton teen

In a bizarre accident, Bluffton 18-year-old Levi Dixon was knocked off of his jet ski and left floating unconscious in Hilton Head Island's Skull Creek after he collided with a jumping stingray or manta ray. Here's his story.
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In a bizarre accident, Bluffton 18-year-old Levi Dixon was knocked off of his jet ski and left floating unconscious in Hilton Head Island's Skull Creek after he collided with a jumping stingray or manta ray. Here's his story.

With the Atlantic Coast experiencing shark, alligator and jellyfish sightings, stingrays are now making an appearance in Myrtle Beach waters, resulting in the city’s fourth sting this month Thursday morning.

Myrtle Beach Fire Department arrived at the beach access for 24th Avenue North around 11:30 a.m. Thursday to treat a beachgoer who encountered a stingray while spending time at Myrtle Beach. A lifeguard on the scene said the victim was stung in the leg while swashing in shallow waters.

While the stung beach-goer might not have expected to spend her day in pain, experts say spotting stingrays in the ocean is much higher in the spring and summer seasons when swimming activities increase.

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Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue members treat a woman for a stingray sting at the beach access for 24th Avenue N. in Myrtle Beach Thursday afternoon. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

“Stingray stings are fairly common across the coast during swimming season, and while they can be extremely painful, with proper treatment they do not typically cause long-term complications,” S.C. Department of Natural Resources media coordinator Erin Weeks told The Sun News.

Brian Mitchell with MBFD said the department has used four stingray kits since the end of May to treat symptoms or wounds similar to a stingray envenomation. The kits allow officials to remotely heat water in order to immerse the affected area in hot water, which provides significant and rapid pain relief, he said.

According to representatives with SCDNR, the state is home to a number of stingray species; some with stingers, or barbs, and some without. However, Atlantic and southern stingrays are two of the most common barbed species found in coastal South Carolina waters.

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A portable Ray Rx Stingray kit sits on the ground feet away from an area where Myrtle Beach Fire treat a woman for a stingray sting at the beach access for 24th Avenue N. in Myrtle Beach Thursday afternoon. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

While the Atlantic stingray has a long venomous spine, and the southern has a sharp, serrated barb that can lead to severe pain if stepped on, both aren’t perceived to be dangerous or aggressive.

“Stingrays are not aggressive animals — people are most often stung when they step directly on a stingray by accident,” Weeks said.

Earlier this month, The Island Packet in Hilton Head reported an 18-year-old from Bluffton experienced near fatal injuries when a stingray hit him in the face and knocked him unconscious while riding his jet ski in Hilton Head Island’s Skull Creek.

SCDNR spokesman David Lucas told The Island Packet that one of the responding officers said he hadn’t seen an accident like that in his 13 years of water patrols. Lucas told The Island Packet it’s odd for a stingray to jump out of the water at the exact time to impact a boater, despite being known to frequently jump out of the water during the spring and summer.

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Several stingrays at Ripley’s Aquarium are given their annual physicals and ultrasounds on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. No pups were found in the cownose rays, spotted eagle rays and southern stingrays. The rays were measured and blood drawn for testing as students from Horry-Georgetown Technical College watched the exams. JANET BLACKMON MORGAN jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Fortunately, swimmers can easily avoid being stung or stepping on a stingray by doing what’s called the stingray shuffle, Weeks said. Swimmers are advised to move their feet slow and low along the ocean floor instead of stepping straight up and down.

“Stingrays sensing the movement nearby will typically swim away,” Weeks said.

Despite an encounter with a stingray being purely accidental, those who are stung should immediately seek medical treatment to ensure the barb is safely removed or apply very hot water to the wound to ease the pain while awaiting medical care.

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Anna Young is the Coastal Cities reporter for The Sun News covering anything and everything that happens locally. Young, an award-winning journalist who got her start reporting local news in New York, is dedicated to upholding the values of journalism by listening, learning, seeking out the truth and reporting it accurately. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from SUNY Purchase College.
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