A 15-foot alligator attacked and killed a man who was skin diving in an Amazon River tributary, authorities said today.
Jose Sidney Chaves Pires, 37, died from deep wounds in his neck and stomach, Rondonia state policeman Ademar dos Santos said by telephone from Porto Velho 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
Santos said Pires, a police officer himself, was part of a group that had gone spear fishing near a lake created by a dam on the Jamary River, some 30 miles from the state capital of Porto Velho.
Members of the fishing group said they had seen some small alligators along the river’s edge but only spotted the larger beast after bubbles and blood rose from where Pires was diving.
After about 10 minutes, the alligator rose to the surface with his jaws wrapped firmly around Pires’ neck.
“I didn’t know what to do, shoot the alligator or not, because I was afraid of wounding my brother,” the victim’s brother Walterney Pires was quoted by the Estado news agency as saying.
It was only after members of the fishing party fired on the alligator with harpoons and Pires’ service revolver that the animal released the body.
Police are asking federal wildlife officials to ban fishing in the area because of the rising number of alligator attacks. This is the first time such an attack has been fatal.