Megan Pagnini never expected the nightmare awaiting her last Friday evening. She walked to the water along with a friend and was taking selfies when a sea lion attacked her, according to ABC News.
“I was at the water, I was just playing around, jumping—having fun,” Pagnini told “Good Morning America” in an interview that aired on Friday. “And I was taking silly pictures, when all of a sudden, it came out of nowhere and bit my leg.”
People walking around were shocked by what happened and quickly ran to help her, reported CBS17.
“I felt it on my leg and I looked down and freaked out. I didn’t know what it was. All I knew is something was attacking me,” Megan told CBS17.
Todd Tognazzini, patrol captain for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told ABC News that sea lions usually do not attack people.
“There are many thousands of surfers that use the water every day in California; there are many people who go into the water and this type of event is extremely unusual,” he told ABC.
Tognazzini said that they were able to spot the correct animal and it tested positive for domoic acid poisoning.
Domoic acid is a toxin produced by blooming algae in the waters of the west coast. Dave Caron, a professor of Biological Sciences at USC who a few years ago studied toxic algal blooms, analyzed samples from 32 ill sea lions and found them positive for domoic acid, reported the Independent.
Sea lions with domoic acid poisoning show symptoms like confusion, seizures, head-weaving, and foaming at the mouth, said the report.
Scores of Birds, Sea Lions Suffering Likely Domoic Acid Poisoning: The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has been… https://t.co/GStgNdRwWZ
— Santa Barbara Patriot News 🇺🇸 (@_Santa_Barbara) April 25, 2017
Tognazzini said his officers’ concern was that the sea lion that bit the 13-year-old should not harm other beachgoers.
“Our officer spotted what he believed to be the correct animal, it was behaving very strange, it actually exited the water and was in a state of stupor. It was biting sticks along the beach and actually worked its way up to a lifeguard tower on the beach, and it’s metal, and it bit the base of the lifeguard tower,” Tognazzini told ABC.
Meanwhile, Pagnini remains in disbelief at what happened to her. “I just thought to just scream and try to get help because I didn’t even know what was happening,” she told the news outlet. “My brain couldn’t really process it.”
Since her friend was already filming her playing in the water, he was able to capture the whole incident on camera—the sea lion coming out of the waves and lunging at Pagnini’s leg.
“I thought they were just so cute and little and mostly just like little like beans that were just swimming around being cute,” she said. “I thought they were just the most adorable little things. They’re just the puppies of the sea.”
“I felt it on my leg, and I looked down and freaked out,” she said. “I didn’t even know what it was. All I knew is that something was attacking me.” https://t.co/PL3fhf6R71
— NBC12 WWBT Richmond (@NBC12) June 20, 2019
She was rushed to the hospital where they kept the wound dressed before suturing it up, according to ABC News.
A witness, Nicki Thessen, appreciated that Pagnini showed concern for others even after she was bitten and in pain.
“After her leg was wrapped up and everything, she turned looked at my husband and me and apologized to us, like she had ruined our weekend or something. And it really melted my heart that that little girl was worried about us in that moment,” Thessen told CBS17.
The 13-year-old is hoping to recover soon and play soccer in August, reported CBS17.
According to Caron, the Domoic acid toxin levels increase and decrease in the water over time. “There’s no typical year; it’s sporadic, episodic,” he told in his interview with the Independent in about his research in 2017.
“Marine mammals are a sentinel species that can indicate whether you’re having a tiny patch or a widespread bloom,” Caron told The Independent. “Somewhere out there, there’s quite a bit of toxin.”