British Columbia

Family of girl grabbed by sea lion denies trying to feed it

The father of a girl who was grabbed by a sea lion and dragged into the water from the Steveston docks in Richmond, B.C., says the girl and her grandparents have been falsely blamed for feeding the marine mammal.

Girl's quick-thinking grandfather a hero, dad says

A male California sea lion grabbed a young girl by her dress and pulled her into the water off Steveston's docks in Richmond, B.C., on Saturday. Her grandfather jumped into the water to save her. (Michael Fujiwara/CBC)

The father of a girl who was grabbed by a sea lion and dragged into the water from the Steveston docks in Richmond, B.C., says the girl and her grandparents have been falsely blamed for feeding the marine mammal.

"There was somebody beside them that was trying to feed them. Also, they weren't trying to take pictures or anything," said the father. 

On Saturday, a sea lion grabbed the six-year-old girl by her dress and pulled her into the water. At the time, the Simon Fraser University student who captured the scene on video claimed a family was feeding the sea lion bread crumbs while the girl got close to the edge of the dock. 

On social media, people assumed it was the girl's family feeding the sea lion. 

The Lau family spoke to CBC News to set the record straight, after comments about the viral video slammed the family for feeding the animal. 

CBC News has agreed not to use the father's first name for privacy reasons and to avoid identifying the child.

"My daughter went to the front to try to see the sea lions, to get a closer look," he said. The sea lion got hold of her dress and dragged her into the water

Lau admitted his daughter had been too close to the wild animal.

"That's a lesson she took and she has taken that lesson in a hard way," he said. 

Girl recovering

The girl suffered a superficial wound, five centimetres by 10 centimetres, on her lower body, Lau said.

The family said they rushed their daughter to B.C. Children's Hospital immediately after she was pulled into the water, and the girl was prescribed antibiotics.

Vancouver Aquarium officials warned that a sea lion bite could contain bacteria needing a specific form of treatment.

Lau said the family has been in touch with the aquarium about any other treatment the girl might require. 

While the family is pretty shaken up, Lau said, they're happy the girl is safe. 

"Only thing I care is God, she is safe. 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," he said.

Lau credited the grandfather's quick thinking for the positive outcome. 

"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. 

The girl's father says the girl wasn't feeding the sea lion, but that other visitors on the dock had been. (Michael Fujiwara/CBC)

The video portrays the family as tourists, but Lau said they're residents of Vancouver. 

"We feel quite disturbed with it. We didn't expect the video to go viral," he said. 

Comments online criticized the grandparents for walking away without thanking bystanders who helped out. The father said they are grateful for the help, but in the moment they were just trying to get the girl into dry clothes.