The terrifying moment was captured on video by Michael Fujiwara. In the footage, the animal can be seen initially bobbing around near the dock. The girl, who has not been identified, gets excited by the sea lion’s presence — not knowing how dangerous the situation would become.
“It was a really sunny day and I went out on the docks to drink coffee and relax,” Fujiwara tells PEOPLE. “A sea lion popped up in the water in front of me, so I took out my cell phone and started to film.”
Fujiwara says the girl and her family, whom he presumes was a tourist family of five that did not speak English, began feeding breadcrumbs to the sea lion, who initially jumped up out of the water to give her “a greeting.”
“No one was telling them not to feed the sea lion breadcrumbs,” he says. “I don’t think they knew better. It seemed friendly at first, everyone was oohing and awing because they thought it was an adorable creature swimming.
“Seconds later, the girl sat down on the side of the dock and that’s when it came back up again, grabbed her by the waist and started dragging her into the water.”
Fujiwara estimates there were about 15 people standing on the wharf. Everyone “began screaming and became very scared and shocked,” he says.
Fujiwara‘s video shows an older man — presumably a relative — jumping in to rescue her, and they both made swift exits from the water with help from bystanders, including Fujiwara.
“The family got the heck out of there,” he says. “The little girl was shaken up, crying and her family wanted to get her away from the sea lion, they obviously didn’t want to stay in the area. We tried to make sure they were okay, but nobody wanted to talk to anyone afterward.”
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Bob Beziuk, a general manager of the harbor, told PEOPLE that sea lions will engage with visitors if they are fed — but they’re still dangerous wild animals.
“If you throw things into the water to attract them, they’re not to be messed with,” Beziuk said on Sunday. He noted the harbor has signs posted warning visitors of feeding the animals.
On Sunday, Beziuk said that he “first and foremost” hopes the girl is okay as he awaits updated information. (The little girl appeared to be unharmed but it had not yet been confirmed.)
“I am waiting for some updated information. It appeared from the video that she was pulled out, everybody was okay, but I certainly hope she is okay. That’s first and foremost,” he said.
Fujiawara is trying to find a way to contact the family to make sure the girl is unharmed.
“I just hope she is okay,” says the 23-year-old engineering student at Simon Fraser University. “I’ve been searching all over social media for them. “