View Full Version : Fish Attack Divers ordeal

01-07-2009, 10:21 AM
I don't know how she managed to stay calm.

Fish Attack Just Start of Diver's Ordeal

Va. Beach Woman Returning From Thailand for Sight-Saving Surgery

By Christian Davenport (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/staff/email/christian+davenport/)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; Page B08

The fish was gray and sleek, about three feet long, and unlike anything Sabrina Matthews had ever seen. Matthews, on a 10-day scuba diving trip off the coast of Myanmar in mid-December, shone her light through the darkness to get a better look.
The fish, which she said was a barracuda, turned toward her. "Oh, cool," thought Matthews, a stand-up comedian from Virginia Beach. "I'm going to get a closer look."

Then it charged toward her, coming surprisingly -- and frighteningly -- fast. She ducked, but the barracuda's sharp teeth sliced through the side of her diving mask and slit her left eye.
She was about 60 feet underwater, on a night dive, in a cavern, six hours from shore and a long way from home.

It would be hours before Matthews, 44, got to a hospital. There would be miles to travel over water and land and a problem with her passport that involved the U.S. Embassy and friends back in the States who petitioned elected officials and the media to look into her case and help bring her home. It was just yesterday that Matthews, whose condition has stabilized in a Bangkok hospital, was informed that she had received the approval needed to return to the United States for surgery to restore her sight.

Matthews had been on enough dives -- 203, to be exact -- to know to stay cool. She knew that she and her dive master needed to ascend slowly after the attack to avoid getting the bends, even though all she wanted was to rise to the surface. Somehow she had managed not spit out her regulator, the mouthpiece through which she drew air -- a feat in itself.
Once on the boat, called the Mermaid One, a fellow diver who was a nurse bandaged her eye. This was a "live-aboard" trip, in which divers stay on the boat and dive in distant spots, and she was hours from shore. She couldn't keep from screaming, "Get me out of here!" she recalled in a telephone interview yesterday from her hospital room in Bangkok.

After arriving back at their base in Thailand, things got worse. A doctor told her that her injury was severe and that she needed to be taken immediately to a hospital in Bangkok, Matthews said. But the ambulance ride would be expensive, and the driver wanted to be paid in advance. Matthews didn't have enough cash, so the driver took her to an ATM, which was out of service. Finally, the dive company said it would pay the difference, she said.

Meanwhile, she had trouble getting a reentry stamp on her passport. She wasn't sure what the holdup was; she was injured and crying and everyone around her was speaking a language she didn't understand. Eventually, she said, she was told her passport had been stamped. Soon, she arrived at the Bangkok hospital, where she said she was given fantastic care and underwent two surgeries, one to repair the cut in her eye, the other to treat an eye infection that had developed.
The surgeon told her the second surgery could be done with a local anesthetic. "I can barely have this conversation without an anesthetic," she shot back after he described the procedure. "Put me out."

Matthews needed additional surgery in the United States to restore her sight. But soon after arriving at the hospital, she was informed that she did not receive the reentry stamp on her passport and could not leave.
Her friends and family back home mobilized. In a letter to several U.S. senators, a friend, writing on behalf of Matthews's mother, wrote: "To date, there has been no apologies given for the delay in responding to request for assistance and a very disturbing nonchalance about the importance of trying to save her eyesight."

Yesterday, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand told Matthews that he had seen to it that her passport was stamped. She hopes to be home as soon as Friday.
Meantime, she's had time to reflect on her ordeal. She doesn't know why the barracuda attacked, though she suspects it was a response to her shining the light on it.
She has a newfound respect for the fish's ferocity -- and for how terrifying it can be to be alone and injured in a foreign country. "The word 'remote' to me has a whole new meaning," she said.

01-17-2009, 10:35 PM
I went snorkeling in the Keys a few years ago. There were barracuda here and there. The important thing the instructors told you to do was not move quickly or have anything shiny on you. We saw barracuda up to 4 feet long, hanging out. They kind of have an evil grin when they are looking at you. :scared: