ABC News’ Barbara A. Schmitt reports:
A summer Florida pastime took a detour when an Everglades tour-boat captain’s hand was bitten off by an alligator.
The incident happened Tuesday afternoon during an airboat ride with customers on board. That’s when the 9-foot-long alligator jumped out of the fresh bayou waters and bit off the captain’s hand.
Officials are withholding the name of the airboat captain who worked for Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours of Everglades City, Fla.
The captain was taken to a nearby hospital and eventually airlifted to an undisclosed hospital equipped to treat his injuries. Tour company manager Glen Smith said the captain “is in good spirits. I spoke with him this morning and he is doing as best as he could be.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials say the alligator was captured and the victim’s hand was removed from its stomach. Smith said hospital officials were unable to reattach the severed hand. “We ask for everyone’s prayers,” he said.
“Gator tours” have risen in popularity since a number of television shows such as “Swamp People” and “Cajun Justice” hit the airwaves. Alligator bites, however, are uncommon, particularly in the state of Florida where it is illegal to feed alligators. There were four recorded incidents of alligators biting a human last year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The alligator has since been killed by authorities and Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are investigating whether any laws were broken during the boat tour.
“It is illegal to feed alligators because alligators could overcome their natural weariness of humans and learn to associate people with food,” commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson said.