A Florida woman remains in intensive care after being viciously attacked by a hippopotamus while canoeing in Africa.
Kristen Yaldor and her husband Ryan, of Odessa, jetted off to South Africa and Zimbabwe to celebrate her 37th birthday, The Miami Herald reported.
After enjoying a number of safaris, a drum and dinner show, Kristen and Ryan ventured to Wild Horizons, where they embarked on a canoeing excursion down the Zambezi River.
As they drifted down the body of water, a mother hippopotamus, who was with her young calf, emerged from under the water and flipped Kristen and Ryan’s canoe over, The Herald reported.
While Ryan was able to swim to safety, Kristen was dragged under by the hippopotamus. The animal then chomped down on her leg, breaking her femur.
Kristen later managed to escape, but didn’t receive medical attention for another few hours, Tampa Bay Times reported.
When she was finally airlifted from the scene, another 13 hours passed before she arrived at a hospital in South Africa, according to the Times.
Despite her condition, Kristen’s family feels lucky she’s alive.
“If one of those [incisor] teeth hit her femoral artery, we would probably be planning a funeral today,” Kristen’s mother-in-law Martine Yaldor, a South Africa native, told the Tampa Bay Times. “By all accounts, she was incredibly lucky.”
Although Martine admitted to the Times that there are “always risks involved when you interact with wildlife,” she believes the tour operator has some questions to answer.
Martine forwarded emails to the Tampa Bay Times, which included statements from Ryan regarding the event as well as the CEO of the tour company.
According to Martine, Ryan’s account differs from Wild Horizons’ story, making it unclear as to whether or not Kristen listened to directions to swim away from the hippo and why it took so long for her to receive medical attention.
In the email, Wild Horizons claims they told Kristen and Ryan to swim to the island while a guide distracts the animal. However, Ryan claims there was no time for Kristen to flee as she was thrown right in front of the hippo and immediately taken under water, Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Kristen was pulled under as soon as she hit the water,” Ryan wrote, according to The Tampa Bay Times. “She had no opportunity to swim to shore.
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Ryan also alleged that the tour guide’s radio wasn’t working, which may explain why it took so long to get Kristen to a hospital.
“This is a very unfortunate incident that can happen in the wild with animals when we’re on their territory,” Martine told the Times. “But the people that provided this opportunity weren’t properly prepared… they need to have the courage of convictions to say, ‘Sorry, it’s not safe today.”
Wild Horizons did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request to comment further.
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