-- When an alligator clamped down on her arm, Rachael Lilienthal's first instinct was to pray.
“Once I realized that my arm was in the gator’s mouth, I said a quick prayer,” she said of the August encounter.
“It rolled me around and I could feel my arm break,” she said. “At that point, I realized I wasn’t getting out of this and needed to call for help.”
Lilienthal, 37, of Orlando, Florida, was swimming in shoulder-deep water in the Wekiva River when the attack occurred, costing Lilienthal part of her arm.
“I didn’t realize it was actually a gator until I touched his head,” she said. “It felt like a reptile, a huge reptile, on my arm. It had clamped and it just wouldn’t let go.”
Nearby couples in canoes – including Krista Karlsen and boyfriend Casey Spencer – came to her rescue. One couple beat the gator with a paddle.
“I kept trying to go at it while it was on her abdomen, and she [Lilienthal] tried to grab onto the kayak with her right arm, but there was no arm there – it got completely ripped off,” Spencer said.
Lilienthal calls the rescuers her heroes, crediting them with saving her life.
“I am so eternally grateful for both Krista and Casey, they were so great,” she said. “They didn’t consider their own safety. They saw someone in need and they rushed to assist.”