'Unimaginable' pain as stingray leaves its mark on Hastings man Alastair Brown

Niwa says the toxin from the stingray's barb becomes unstable at high temperatures. Photo / File
Niwa says the toxin from the stingray's barb becomes unstable at high temperatures. Photo / File

It felt like a shark had bitten a chunk out of his torso.

Hastings man Alastair Brown says he had to look down twice at his side to double check that he was seeing just a small, bleeding hole.

Confused and in pain, he dragged himself up and stumbled along Te Awanga beach in the line of sight of friends sitting on the balcony of a house before yelling out for help and collapsing on the sand.

Alistair Brown said it felt like a shark had bitten a chunk out of his torso. Photo / Supplied
Alistair Brown said it felt like a shark had bitten a chunk out of his torso. Photo / Supplied

Brown said he and his friends were at a friend's house on Sunday evening when he decided to head into the water and put out a crab net.

He got about knee deep then noticed he'd stood on something.

"I stood on what at the time felt like a really big kingfish, like a really, fat, solid fish. I stumbled on it and fell backwards and then when I fell backwards into the water I got a massive jab in my side.

"I initially thought I had been bitten by a shark. I checked down my side because it felt like I would have a hole there. I actually checked twice and then noticed I only had a small hole. It was pretty confusing at the time."

He noticed something flap around and then realised he had stood on a stingray.

"The pain from it was totally insane. It's actually hard to describe because it's not like anything I have ever experienced before. There was no answer for the discomfort."

An ambulance took about 30 minutes to arrive but he was thankful the 111 operator suggested putting hot water on the wound.

Alastair Brown, dressed as Bernie Sanders at a party. Photo / Supplied
Alastair Brown, dressed as Bernie Sanders at a party. Photo / Supplied

Niwa principal scientist fisheries Dr Malcolm Francis said the toxin from the ray's barb became unstable at high temperatures.

"Anybody gets hit by one they should put something hot on it, a hot flannel or immerse the bit attacked in hot water, and that breaks down the protein in the toxin pretty quickly."

Francis said stingrays were more prolific at this time of year as the water temperatures warmed up and they crept in closer to shore to hunt for shellfish.

"Although they're around all year they seem to like getting into the shallow water as it warms and their feeding rate goes up too as they're hunting for shellfish in the sand. They excavate holes in the sand in the shallows looking for cockles and pipi and things like that."

Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said stingrays were naturally docile, yet curious creatures and would attack if they felt threatened - either being stood on, hurt or cornered.

in Auckland, Takapuna locals had noticed an increase in stingrays at the beach, and Duffy said that could be due to fishermen throwing their waste in the area or it could be a natural occurrence of ray gathering in the breeding season.

"There could be an actual aggregation and they just bask in the water, just the females, so it could be related to breeding, getting their body temperature up to hasten along the development of embryos."

A good way to avoid them was for people to shuffle their feet as they walked through the water as it would give the ray time to flee.

- NZ Herald

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