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The father of the young girl who was dragged into the water by a sea lion is speaking out to defend his family against claims they provoked the incident by feeding the animal.
A video of the dramatic moment at a harbor in British Columbia Saturday has gone viral. It also prompted a port official to blame the family for their "stupidity," claiming they were feeding the creature despite signs warning visitors not to do so.
The girl’s father insisted in an interview with CBC News that his family members weren’t the ones trying to get the animal's attention.
"There was somebody beside them that was trying to feed them. Also, they weren't trying to take pictures or anything," said the man, who was only identified by his last name, Lau, to provide some privacy to the family.
The terrifying scene was captured on video by an onlooker, who posted it on YouTube. The video shows the sea lion poking his head out of the water near a dock after someone tossed it a piece of food. Moments later, the creature snatches the dress of the young girl sitting on a railing and yanks her into the water.
The video also shows a man immediately diving into the water and bringing her back to land. Lau said the girl's grandfather was the person who saved his daughter.
"If he had one- or two-second doubt about that, my girl could have been gone by then. That reaction makes him a hero," he said.
In an earlier interview, Robert Kiesman, chairman of the Steveston Harbour Authority, noted that many signs posted at the harbor warn visitors against feeding the wildlife.
“What we saw in that video today was total stupidity on the part of the adults, not only do you let your family members feed a wild animal, but then they went and let their little girl sit on the edge of the dock with her back, dress hanging off,” Kiesman said.
Lau admitted to CBC News that his daughter was sitting too close to the sea lions when she got pulled in to the water.
"That's a lesson she took and she has taken that lesson in a hard way," he said.
The girl was prescribed antibiotics at a nearby hospital immediately after the incident.
But days later, officials from the Vancouver Aquarium urged the family to seek additional help for a possible “seal finger” infection that requires a specific form of treatment.
The rare infection is caused when bacteria from a sea mammal’s mouth makes its way into a person’s skin through a cut. If left untreated, the infection could lead to loss of a finger or limb.
"She did get a superficial wound and she's going to get the right treatment," Vancouver Aquarium spokeswoman Deana Lancaster told NBC News.
Lau said he has been in touch with the aquarium about further treatment his daughter will need. He said the family remains shaken, but happy that his daughter is doing well.
"Only thing I care is, God, she is safe,” he told CBC. “God, I didn't miss out anyone from my family at that moment. I could have gone organizing a funeral by now rather than doing interview.”