A Florida alligator that chomped off the hand of a teenager was hunted down, killed and opened up so doctors could retrieve the hand, but were then unable to reattach the boy's left hand.
Tim Delano is recovering in a Fort Meyers-area hospital after the unsuccesful attempt to re-attach the hand.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson Gabriella Ferraro said Delano was attacked while swimming in a Collier County creek around 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
"He got yanked underwater and the alligator did what they do and they roll," she said.
That movement, known as the death roll, is an alligator's attempt to drown their prey by rolling repeatedly under the water until that prey is dead.
But in Delano's case, she said, he was able to punch the alligator with his free arm until it let go, taking the 18-year-old's left hand with it.
"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the alligator was hungry," she said.
Immediately after being notified of the attack, the FWC sent a contracted trapper, which pulled two alligators out of the water. Based on size and the location where the alligator was found, the offending animal was shot in the head and later dissected where investigators found Delano's left hand.
It was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Meyers, but doctors were unable to attach the hand.
A spokesperson for the hospital said Delano was in "good condition," but sadi his doctors could not comment on the procedure without the family's permission.
Delano told the Naples Daily News that he was swimming in the popular watering hole known to locals as "the Crystal," when he bitten and heard a crack as the alligator's jaws clamped down on his arm.
"Fortunately, I had enough sense to take my right hand and I started punching it," he said.
Swimming to the surface, he told the newspaper, he was horrified to see his left hand missing.
"I starting screaming — cursing at the world," he told paper.
And while a friend drove him to meet emergency officials, Delano told the Napes Daily News, he texted his mother: "Mom, I have no left hand. Goodbye."
Wildlife Officials Say Alligators Well-Known Presence Where Teen Was Attacked
Ferraro said the alligator that attacked Delano measured 10 feet, 2 inches long, big even by Florida standards.
Most alligator attacks are not unprovoked, she said, even though it appears that's the case in the attack on Delano.
"Sometimes people are charged for feeding or harassing alligators," she said.
But she noted that alligators are a known presence -- or should be -- to residents. The canal where Delano was swimming runs right along what's known as Alligator Alley.
"If you were to drive along this canal you would see alligators everywhere," she said.
"You swim at your own risk," she said. "Our hearts go out to this gentleman and it's a terrible thing, but we need to remind residents and visitors to assume there's one present."
Combine that with this being an active time of year for alligators and swimmers near the Crystal may want to think twice about getting in the water.
Ferraro said the state has recorded five or six attacks on humans so far this year, which is on pace with years past.
Delano told the Naples Daily News that he's seen children and families swimming in the area where he was attacked and that he wants to make it his mission to get the Crystal made off limits to swimmers.
"I hope they will shut it down" he said, "so no accidents like this will happen again."