Girl attacked by sea lion off Australian coast

CANBERRA, Australia — A 13-year-old girl said Tuesday she
used kicks and punches to fend off a sea lion that attacked her as
she was riding a surfboard that was being towed by a boat.

Ella Murphy was riding the surfboard off Lancelin, a town 80
miles north of the Western Australia state capital of Perth, when a
sea lion leaped from the water, biting her face and neck on Friday.

Murphy said she initially thought the brown shape streaking
beneath the surface was a shark.

``I saw it jump out of the water and just saw its teeth come
toward my face,'' she told Nine Network television from her
hospital bed. ``I just kind of thought: What's going to happen?
What's next? Is it the end? … I really didn't know,'' she said.

``It jumped out of the water and just grabbed hold of me and
shook me and dragged me back under the water,'' she added.

She said the sea lion, estimated to weigh 440 pounds, released
her because she punched and kicked it.

Speedboat driver Chris Thomas said the sea lion resurfaced about
10 yards away from Murphy and would have attacked again if he had
not maneuvered the boat between them and dragged the girl aboard.

Murphy lost three teeth in the attack and was treated for a deep
tooth puncture wound in her neck.

Marine experts say such aggressive behavior is highly unusual
for a sea lion.