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A Chiefland woman was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville Saturday afternoon after a 70-pound sturgeon jumped out of the Suwannee River and knocked her out of her family’s boat.
Thirty-two-year-old Brianne Megargel was enjoying a relaxing afternoon boat ride on the river with her husband, Stephen, and 10-year-old son, Greyson Elmore, at about 4 p.m. near Manatee Springs when the accident occurred, according to Michael Hart, Megargel's father.
"She got banged up pretty good," Hart said. She suffered mulitple injuries, including two broken arms and broken ribs. "It's gonna' be a long recovery."
Megargel, who wasn't wearing a life jacket, was rescued by her husband and son, who, according to Hart, had the composure to maneuver the drifting boat back to where his mother and stepfather were located.
"She doesn't remember anything about the accident."
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Karen Parker said Megargel was the second person to have an encounter with sturgeon on the Suwannee River this year.
An Old Town man was knocked unconscious on May 11 near Rock Bluff, though he remained in his boat, according to Parker.
Parker said there have been 25 recorded boat encounters with sturgeon since 2006, a year that saw one woman needing thousands of dollars of reconstructive surgery to her face because of a jumping sturgeon.
"It's not funny," Parker said. "There have been some people seriously injured by this."
Last year alone, there were 11 people who had encounters with sturgeon, 6 of whom were seriously injured, Parker said.
"We don't want to scare anybody off the river," she said, "but we just want them to be aware that the fish are out there."
Sturgeon are in the Suwannee from spring to fall, she said, and they can jump anywhere, though they tend to do it most frequently in deeper parts of the river.
There are eight locations on the river where jumping is most common, she said: Anderson Springs, the confluence of the Suwannee and Santa Fe rivers, Rock Bluff, the Old Town Trestle, Fanning Springs, Manatee Springs, Usher Landing and Jack's Sandbar.
Parker said it's a good idea to slow down in these areas, move people to the back of the boat and make sure all are wearing life preservers.