ABC News’ John Schriffen reports:
A Florida father who fought to free his young son from the jaws of an 8-foot alligator in the Everglades said he hit the alligator as hard as he could until the creature let go of the boy.
The boy, Joey Welch, 6, escaped with just scrapes and bruises after his encounter with the animal Friday at Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach.
Joey and his father, Joe Welch of Pompano Beach, were out on a canoe trip when Joey fell into shallow water and the alligator pounced, grabbing the boy’s right arm in its jaws.
That’s when Joe Welch said he started hitting the alligator. Welch weighs about 175 pounds, and the alligator is estimated to have weighed about 200 pounds.
Hitting the alligator “felt like I was hitting cinder block,” Joe Welch told ABC News.
Joey said he thought it was the end of him. “I’m thinking like I’m going to die,” the boy said in an interview with ABC News’ Miami affiliate, WPLG Local 10.
Another man who was nearby heard Joe Welch’s screams and came to his aid.
“This good Samaritan had kicked the gator underneath the belly about three or four times, and then I guess the gator decided that after getting kicked and punched, he just finally released,” Welch said. “I was able to get my son and walk to shore.”
Joey was taken to the hospital but had no serious injuries.
The alligator “could have squished my son’s arm like a cracker, but my son’s arm is completely intact. He doesn’t even have any broken bones,” Welch said.
Wildlife officials captured the alligator and killed it, WPLG reported.
Welch told ABC News he was “amazed” that Joey slept with no nightmares that night. His son, however, has said he will not go back to the Everglades, preferring to swim in the ocean.