Mike Cunningham says he’s certain his five-year-old daughter Caleigh would be dead if she hadn’t been wearing her life-jacket when a seal grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her into the water at a West Vancouver marina.

Cunningham was cleaning fish at Thunderbird Marina on Tuesday night when he heard a splash, and turned around to see Caleigh bobbing to the surface two metres away from the dock.

He pulled his crying daughter to the dock as his neighbour described seeing a seal jump out of the water, grab Caleigh by the wrist and pull her under the water.

Cunningham admitted the story sounds like a joke and said if he hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“I’m not a biologist, but in my mind that thing had to be swimming pretty fast to get enough momentum to get four feet out of the water, grab her and pull her into the water,” Cunningham said.

“You see pictures of killer whales jumping out of the water and grabbing seals. Well that’s the image I have.”

One of the things that disturbs him most, he said, is that the seal tried to carry Caleigh away under water.

“These things are absolutely habituated to people,” he said. “When I cruise into the marina I have three or four seals following me in. They know the pickings are good here and it’s a free meal.”

Caleigh was taken to hospital and treated for four puncture wounds, and Cunningham said she’s not keen on talking about the experience.

To assuage her fears, he told Caleigh the seal was just trying to play with her, to which she responded, “It was rude for it not to have asked ‘please.’”

“She’s overwhelmed by all the attention,” he said. “It just makes me sick to think what could have been.”

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