A leaping sturgeon struck and killed a 5-year-old girl boating with her family on a river in Florida, and a similar incident injured two adults in a different part of the state, wildlife officials said on Saturday.
Jaylon Rippy was boating with her family on the Suwannee River in northwest Florida near Fanning Springs on Thursday evening when the jumping fish injured the young girl along with her mother and her 9-year-old brother, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission said in a statement.
The family members, who were from nearby Trenton, were airlifted to a hospital in Gainesville but the girl did not survive. The conditions of the girl's mother and brother were not clear.
On Friday, two adults traveling in a boat on the Santa Fe River between the Suwannee River and a Branford area campground were also struck by a leaping sturgeon, Fish and Wildlife Commission officials said in a statement.
It is unusual for sturgeons to strike boaters in Florida on consecutive days, said Fish and Wildlife Commission spokeswoman Karen Parker.
But wildlife officials warned people to be aware of the threat from the toothless fish, which can grow to a length of 8 feet (2.4 meters) or more and weigh over 150 pounds (68 kgs).
Research has found sturgeons jump to equalize pressure in their swim bladders and communicate with other sturgeons.
"With the low water levels in the river system, the sturgeon are jumping much more frequently than in recent years," Major Andy Krause, Fish and Wildlife Commission regional commander for the Lake City area, said in a statement.
In late May, a 15-year-old girl was knocked unconscious by a leaping sturgeon in Florida, Parker said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Plumb)