An 8-year-old girl feeding dolphins at SeaWorld in Florida got the fright of her young life when one of the marine mammals went for the fish Jillian Thomas was holding and got her hand instead.
The incident occurred on Nov. 21 and was caught on camera by her father, who has since uploaded the video to YouTube where nearly 120,000 people have viewed it since Saturday.
“The first thing I thought was I would have to jump in the water and save my daughter's life,” Jamie Thomas told the Orlando Sentinel. “I literally thought she was going to be pulled into the water.”
The girl was left with a dime-sized puncture wound and a swollen hand. The cut is healing, according to her father, but he and her mother remain unhappy about the way SeaWorld reacted to the incident. The Georgia couple say the marine park near Orlando appeared to trivialize the matter.
“It was strange how they downplayed the whole thing,” said Thomas, claiming that no one from management tried to speak with the family after a first-aid provider treated Jillian's wounds and told them there was no reason to worry.
“The second it happened, one of the employees came over to Jillian to ask her if she had a positive experience and realized she was bleeding,” said mom Amy Thomas.
SeaWorld released a statement afther the family expressed concern.
“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals,” said the park’s statement. “Educators and animal care staff were at the attraction when this happened and immediately connected with the family.”
SeaWorld acknowledged there had been similar bites involving dolphins at the park during feeding events, though park officials described the occurrences as rare.
Two children were bitten by dolphins in 2006.
In this latest incident the dolphin immediately released the girl’s hand. However, in one of the 2006 incidents, two adults had to pry open a dolphin’s mouth after it bit and held the arm of a 7-year-old boy.
The Thomas family doesn’t plan legal action over the dolphin bite, but hopes that SeaWorld does more to inform parents of the dangers involved in feeding dolphins.
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