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Teen recovering after alligator bites off part of arm

Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-10 14:31:18-04

MOOR HAVEN, Fla. - A South Florida teen is recovering after a nearly 10-foot-long alligator took off part of his right arm below the elbow. 17-year-old Fred Langdale was swimming with a group of friends on Monday when the Alligator lunged at him, biting off and swimming away with his arm.

Langdale's friends tell Fort Meyers CBS affiliate WINK a group of teens had spent the day in the Caloosahatchee River when the attack happened, and the alligator was just two feet away from Langdale before anyone noticed it.

"The gator...just came straight at him," said Gary Beck, a friend of Langdale's who witnessed the attack. "I yelled, 'Fred,' he looked, punched the gator and then it took his arm. He went under."

After a three-hour-long search, Fish and Wildlife officers eventually caught and killed the alligator, and retrieved the arm, but doctors were unable to reattach it.

Langdale was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital.

Gary Beck was on shore when the attack happened, but quickly jumped in the water to help pull Langdale to shore, and make sure the rest of the group got out of the water safely. He said the alligator made a beeline for Langdale.

"As soon as he'd seen Fred, the gator was coming after him," Beck said. "On top of the water, as fast as he could pedal, his tail was wagging back and forth, he was coming."

Witnesses that were in the river during the attack say Langdale purposely shoved his arm at the alligator rather than swim away, a strategic move.

"He's been around alligators all his life," said Matthew Baker. "He's smart enough, he knows if he offers him his arm, he won't take his torso. So, he was smart, he took the risk." 

Officers say there had been reports of two gators called in from that same area earlier in the day, adding people that live on or near the water need to be careful as this is a particularly active time of year for Alligators.

""It's just after mating season, eggs are already laid, but the gators are still very active," said Capt. Jeff Ardelean with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comm. "Any type of commotion on the water is potential food in their eyes."