A Florida woman was attacked over the Memorial Day weekend while swimming in a lake, and it left her seriously injured. She was then airlifted to a hospital, officials said.
The woman was identified as 26-year-old Nichole A. Tillman of Melbourne, Florida according to ABC News. She was swimming on Saturday afternoon in Key Lake Wilderness Park, Cocoa, when she was attacked by an 8-foot-long alligator.
“We’re hanging out about waist to chest deep in the lake, next thing you know a girl starts screaming and luckily a couple guys reacted and grab her,” eyewitness Dave Nygard told ABC News.
He added: “I thought she was more or less joking around … next thing you know we pull her out and her side and her thigh were open. So then about 30 seconds later I see a gator head pop up. It was every bit of 8 foot.”
Rescuers rushed to help the victim, placing her in an ATV before driving her several miles out of the woods to a nearby road, ABC reported. She was then taken via a medical helicopter to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne.
“We have a female who was allegedly bit by an alligator. She was out in the woods, swimming in a lake, from what we understand,” Brevard County Fire District Chief Thomas Uzel told the news outlet. “She was classified as a trauma alert and she was transported to Holmes.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it is investigating the incident, according to the report.
But the agency stressed that alligator attacks in the state are rare, and fatal attacks are even rarer, Local10 reported.
“I mean, it’s scary,” Nygard told ABC. “Just thankful a little kid wasn’t in the lake at the time, because more or less the gator probably would’ve gotten the kid.”
He said there were about a dozen people swimming in the lake at the time. “Several people grabbed towels and shirts and wrapped her side and leg and then they rushed her up here to the [road],” he said.
Alligators tend to become more active in the spring and summer months as the temperature increases.
Uzel said that it’s the second alligator bite in 35 years that he has had to deal with.
“Usually gators are not intrusive on people,” Nygard also said. “They’re more or less more scared of us than we are of them, so for the gator to come up and — he was curious more or less — so thank goodness we got her out and hopefully she’s doing fine right now.”
“You hear of shark bites, yet we keep going in the ocean,” he added. “Born and raised in Florida, not going to keep us out of lakes.”
Last Fatal Attack
A woman who often walked her dog near a golf course lagoon across the street from her vacation home was killed last year by an alligator that dragged her into the greenish water at a private resort on the South Carolina coast, The Associated Press reported.
Authorities said 45-year-old Cassandra Cline was trying to protect her pet border collie when she died not far from her home on Hilton Head Island.
Thomas DiMaio, who rents a house across the street from the scene of the attack, said he heard shrieks while he was in the shower but thought they were a bird. He went outside a half hour later to find a crowd gathering beside the road, where a bag of dog treats Cline had been carrying, one of her shoes, and her hat dotted a trail leading to the water.
“It’s really sad,” said DiMaio, who often chatted with Cline as she walked her dog past the vacation home he’s rented for several weeks in the Sea Pines Resort. “She didn’t have any children. The dog was her child, I guess.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.