Austin Goncalves: Bradenton, Florida, family poisoned by fish caught in the Bahamas

15-year-old boy recovering from coma

BRADENTON, Fla. - Austin Goncalves loves to fish, so his mother, Karen Goncalves, offered him a dream vacation.

Austin, his friend, Marlin Ellis, Austin's mother and her boyfriend all went spear fishing in the Bahamas.

Austin and his friend caught a fish, a mutton snapper, but never thought it would poison the whole family after they ate it.

Austin says, "I remember eating the fish. I remember diving the day we ate the fish. And then I remember waking up in Miami a week later."

The poison put the 15-year-old in a coma.

Austin said the fish ate toxins from algae along a coral reef in the Bahamas. When he and the others on the vacation ate the fish, they ingested the poison. It's called ciguatera poisoning.

Experts say you have a one in 50 chance to get it if you eat large fish in that region. That's why biologists recommend avoiding eating large fish if you visit the Bahamas.

Austin says, "There is no warning. No smell. No taste. No way to tell that the fish has the poison."

The only reason they can talk about this warning for others is because of his mother's natural reaction after the four started violently vomiting.

Karen Goncalves says, "I remember calling the ambulance and that is the last thing I remember for several days."

Doctors in the Bahamas never diagnosed the poison.

Goncalves' daughter got them flown to Miami where doctors recognized the symptoms.

Austin says, "I am getting better. Still a little weak. Normal stuff like walking, taking a shower makes me tired."

He starts physical therapy this week and appreciates all the support. The medical bills are mounting. It cost the family $10,000 each to get the helicopter to pick them up from the Bahamas – money the family doesn't have.

Add that to the bills for the treatment.

Four downtown Bradenton restaurants are trying to help.

There will be a benefit Aug. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Click here for details.

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