Bristol woman left fighting for her life after being bitten by dolphin in Bolivia

The 28-year-old is still unable to work due to the injury Credit: SWNS

A Bristol woman on the 'trip of a lifetime' was left fighting for her life after a dolphin nearly bit her foot off during a wild swim.

Claire Bye was swimming in a river in Santa Rosa de Yacuma in Bolivia when a pink river dolphin sunk its teeth into her right foot.

The 28-year-old was left screaming for help as onlookers frantically attempted to pull her out of the water.

It took 20 seconds before the dolphin released its grip and swam away, allowing Claire to climb out of the water to safety.

She says she was horrified when she caught sight of the wound and saw her foot had been partially severed and was "pouring with blood".

Claire was rushed to a local hospital where she had to have 32 stitches. Credit: SWNS

Claire said "I just kept thinking I was going to lose my foot. My skin was flapping around and I could see my bone."

After being treated at a local hospital, Claire's condition went downhill and she contracted a potentially life-threatening infection.

She was then flown to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, for further treatment before waiting two weeks to fly back to Bristol where she underwent surgery at Southmead Hospital.

"By the time I eventually returned home, I went straight to A&E and was told I had another infection.

"I had to have a second surgical clean, and then skin flap surgery where tissue from my groin was transplanted to my foot.

"They also had to sew the blood vessels together to keep the blood flowing.

"It's been really traumatic."

Describing the incident, Claire said she'd never felt pain like it.

"I remember seeing the dolphin out of the corner of my eye, and then it suddenly lunged at me. It wasn't the cute-looking dolphins were used to seeing, it had a huge beak with a mouthful of spiky teeth.

"I screamed and screamed, but it just wouldn't let go of me.

"After the attack, I was taken to a tiny local hospital that was nothing like the hospitals we have.

"They did the best they could, but I caught an infection that began to spread up my leg.

"I honestly thought I'd lose my foot, or potentially my life."

Claire says she has been left traumatised by the attack and still has flashbacks every day. Credit: SWNS

Claire set off on the trip in October with plans to travel around South America and Central America for seven months but the trip was cut short by her injuries.

On the day of the attack, she was on a jungle trip exploring the Amazon Basin with a friend.

They were led by an experienced tour guide and joined by a group of fellow tourists.

The group stopped at the river and spent time swimming and playing with the wild pink river dolphins.

Claire said: "There were mostly children swimming in the water with the dolphins.

"I saw one child try to pick up a dolphin, which made me feel uneasy, so I decided to get out of the water and onto the pontoon.

"That's when the dolphins started to turn aggressive, and a few people got out of the water with scrapes on their legs where they'd been bitten."

Claire decided not to go back into the water but played with the dolphins using a water bottle, as demonstrated by their tour guide, from the safety of the pontoon.

After a few minutes, Claire accidentally dropped the water bottle, so she hopped into the shallow water to retrieve it.

Moments later, a dolphin lunged at Claire and bit down on her right foot.

Claire explained: "The water was brown and I was facing away so I couldn't actually see it bite down on my foot.

"The people on the pontoon tried to help pull me up, but I couldn't move because the dolphin wasn't letting go."

The dolphin eventually released her foot, allowing her to climb out of the water. She was then driven to the local hospital.

Claire was bitten by a pink river dolphin in Bolivia Credit: PA Images

Claire, who is unable to work due to her injuries, said: "I basically had a huge hole in my foot.

"I personally think my foot looks a bit like a piece of pork wrapped in string at the moment.

"I've seen a psychologist to help deal with the trauma - I used to have daily flashbacks of the attack.

"I used to really love wild swimming and I hope to be able to do it in the future, but I'll never swim with dolphins again.

"I feel quite lost at the moment, I don't really know what to do.

"I wish I'd never gone back into the water, it's hard to think about how life would be if it happened.

"I was really disappointed that my travels were cut short so early. I had hoped I might be able to carry on, but as time went on I knew I'd have to come home.

"But after such a trauma, I'm glad I'm at home where everything feels safe and familiar.

"What should have been a beautiful experience changed my life forever, it's incredibly rare for dolphins to attack humans and I never thought it would happen to me."

Investigations are underway to determine why the dolphins attacked, as other people have been bitten while swimming in the river since despite there now being warning signs.