Husband accidentally shoots wife in mouth with harpoon; woman narrowly survives

RIO DE JANEIRO - A 28-year-old woman miraculously survived after her husband accidentally shot her in the mouth with a harpoon, Brazilian officials said Wednesday.

The Rio de Janeiro State Health Department said in a statement that the woman's husband was cleaning his spear gun when it went off, firing a harpoon that hit her cervical spine.

Elisangela Borborema Rosa was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery after Monday's incident in the coastal city of Arraial do Cabo.

The statement quotes neurosurgeon Allan da Costa as saying that the harpoon came within 1 centimeter (less than half an inch) of killing the woman. He said he expects a full recovery.

"This is the first case of its kind that we have gotten at the hospital," said da Costa. "The peculiarity of the accident is that the tip of harpoon penetrated the region between her top vertebrae and the spinal cord. If the object hit only 1 cm to one side the patient would have become a quadriplegic. If it had hit 1 cm to the other side or reach one artery to the brain, she would have been dead. "

A police officer in Arrial do Cabo said by telephone that officials are looking into the case.

"Everything indicates it was an accident, but we are investigating. We don't think the husband tried to kill her," said the officer, who cited department policy in declining to let her name be used.

"But once she fully recovers we will be able to question her and get a clearer picture of what happened."

This is not the first harpoon accident in the state this year.

Last month, Bruno Barcellos de Souza Coutinho, 34, was cleaning his harpoon when it misfired and pierced the corner of his left eye and his skull.

He was brought to a local hospital conscious and alert and after a four-hour surgery, doctors removed the object without any brain damage.

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