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Florida teen loses hand in alligator attack

July 15, 2010 |  9:32 am


A Florida teenager was attacked by an alligator and had his left hand torn off when swimming in a popular neighborhood canal.

Tim Delano, 18, of Golden Gates Estates, Fla., was attacked by the 10-foot alligator while he was swimming at dusk Sunday in a drainage canal known to locals as "the Crystal."

"I saw my bone, I had no hand," Delano told the Naples News.

The animal attacked Delano, pulling him underwater and going into a "death roll," during which gators roll over and over until their prey drowns.

"Fortunately, I had enough sense to take my right hand and I started punching it," Delano said. He got the alligator to release him, but when Delano got to the surface he realized that his left hand was gone.

Delano started screaming, saying that the pain was "excruciating."

With the help of his friends, Delano called 911, and while awaiting the emergency medical services arrival he called his mother, leaving her the message: "Mom, I have no left hand. Goodbye."

Delano was airlifted to an area trauma center, while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission brought in a tracker, who was able to locate and capture the alligator.

The hand was recovered from the animal's stomach, but doctors would not reattach it "because it would be too toxic," said Delano. "I was just happy the other people with me did not get injured, or I'd really hate myself." 

He now hopes to get the popular swimming hole closed, "so no accidents like this will happen again."

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro said that people should recognize that any freshwater body in Florida could have alligators, and that the animals hunt primarily at dawn and dusk.

"If there is an item there and the opportunity presents itself, they will prey," said Ferraro.

The Commission estimates that there are approximately 1.3 million wild alligators in Florida. Since they began keeping records in 1948, the FWC has documented that 517 people have been bitten by alligators, 333 of which were unprovoked and 184 were provoked; 22 of these bites resulted in human fatalities.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: An alligator (not the one that attacked Delano) smiles for the camera. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service