ATTLEBORO — A nightmare scene right out of the movie "Jaws" came true for a 14-year-old former city resident in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday when a 30-pound, 4-foot barracuda, shot out of the water and ripped multiple gashes in her left arm.
Koral Wira was on a fishing trip with her mom and dad, Robert and Dina Parker, and a friend in the family boat at a reef about 4 miles off Venice, Fla., where they've lived for almost three years.
Dina said the fish attacked just as she reached for her camera after noticing it swimming around the boat.
After the fish slashed Koral, who didn't know she was hurt at first, it fell to the deck and was wildly "trying to bite everything," the Parkers said.
Chaos ensued on the 21-foot Key West cabin cruiser, Robert said.
"There were three women screaming and a 45-inch barracuda going crazy. It was a beast," he said. "I grabbed my filet knife and stabbed it behind the eye."
Robert said it was a lucky shot that killed the fish.
"I don't think I could do it again if I tried," he said.
Meanwhile, blood was pouring out of Koral's arm and onto the deck.
"It looked like a crime scene," Robert said.
And Koral was stunned.
"I felt like a truck hit me," said the former Thacher School student. "I didn't feel any pain at first, then I saw all the blood. It was horrible."
Her mother recalled, "I heard a splash and a big thump on the floor," Dina said. "Then I saw the bite marks and blood coming out of Koral. I was hanging onto the windshield for my life and screaming. It was the scariest thing I've ever seen."
Robert wrapped Koral's arm in the Red Sox tee shirt he was wearing and headed for shore at top speed.
He said Koral was brave under the pressure of suffering a severe bite.
"I've got to admit she was a real trooper," he said. "She's a tough cookie."
The wound was sown up at Venice Regional Medical Center where doctors told the Parkers they'd never treated a barracuda bite. The gashes took 51 stitches to close.
While the attack was terrifying and reminiscent of a scene in the 1975 movie "Jaws: where a great white shark explodes from the ocean off Martha's Vineyard and attacks a boat, Robert said Koral and the family were lucky.
"Fortunately no major arteries or bones were hit and it didn't get her face or neck," he said.
Koral said her arm is sore, but the stitches are due to come out in two weeks.
Robert said the family was trying to catch barracudas and sharks, which have been seen in abundance at the reef in recent weeks. Barracuda are aggressive hunters with razor-sharp teeth.
The fishthat attacked Koral had a piece of Robert's fishing line in its mouth, but was not hooked. Apparently it took the bait off the hook and broke the line, he said.
"Then Koral became the bait," Robert said.
Dina said the attack was preceded by a bad omen the night before when she watched a TV program about a barracuda attack, which are supposed to be rare.
"I was worried about it and it happened," she said.
Robert is the brother of former mayoral candidate Tom Parker and the son of Bob and Linda Parker of Attleboro.
Dina's parents, Roger and Doris Smith, also live in Attleboro.