San Diego - Dan Carlin's wife told him to smile for a picture on their boat as he held up one of the yellowtail fish they had caught that day. Then a sea lion leaped out of the water, bit into his hand and yanked him overboard.
The animal, weighing hundreds of pounds, smashed the 62-year-old accountant against the boat's side and sent his legs flying into the air like a rag doll's before it dragged him some 6m underwater, Carlin said on Wednesday, more than three weeks into his recovery after the April 5 incident.
"After 15 seconds, I thought I was going to die," Carlin said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I continued to struggle, but thought this is the way I was going to die. It was unbelievable to me."
Then, as quickly as the attack happened, Carlin was released. He swam toward the surface as the sea lion bit his foot, puncturing a bone.
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He managed to make his way back to his boat that was in a bay off San Diego. He and his wife moved it closer to land while his hand gushed blood and he struggled to breathe because of his battered chest. At one point, Carlin said, he lost his vision.
Carlin spent two days in the hospital. The gash on his hand required 20 stitches.
Carlin hopes his hand will have healed enough so he can go back out fishing next week. An experienced surfer, scuba diver and fisherman, Carlin said he and his wife, Trish Carlin, always took precautions to properly dispose of any guts or carcasses to ensure they did not go in the water.
Still, his experience shows just how dangerous sea lions can be, despite the fact that people often do not fear them, Carlin said.