Ballet Dancer Who Survived Bahamas Boat Explosion: 'It Was Either the Legs or My Life'
A year later, Stefanie Schaffer is adjusting to life without her lower limbs.
Stefanie Schaffer was enjoying a boat ride in the Bahamas with her family last summer when the unthinkable happened.
Out of nowhere, the boat exploded, sending its passengers flying. Schaffer's mother, Stacey Bender, was flung 150 feet, while Schaffer found herself trapped under a pile of burning debris.
"I remember feeling a sense of panic and thinking in my head that I was dying," Schaffer, 23, told Inside Edition.
Tourists from another boat bravely jumped into the water to rush to their aid. Schaffer was pulled from the burning boat still alive, but barely.
"I kept praying, 'Please, don't let her lose her legs. ... Let her keep her legs,'" Bender recalled.
Growing up, Schaffer had always been active, playing soccer and taking ballet. "I loved dancing," she said. "I grew up dancing."
But her legs were so mangled in the blast, doctors had no choice but to amputate.
"It was either the legs or my life," she said.
Schaffer hasn't let it hold her back, though. She spent months in the hospital recovering, and the anger she first felt soon turned to determination. She wanted to be a good role model for her family, especially her little sister Brooke.
"There was no way I was going to be the person to give up on myself and them," she said.
A year later, Schaffer is home in Rutland, Vermont, and she has adapted to her new way of life, working on building her balance and upper body strength.
She has discovered new ways to enjoy the open road, thanks to a specially equipped bicycle. And recently, she was finally cleared to swim again.
"You have to become brave when this happens, you don't really have a choice but to be brave," said Schaffer.
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