The mother of a 45-year-old kindergarten teacher from South Carolina who was killed by an alligator while walking her dog on Monday says she’s still struggling to come to terms with her daughter’s death.
“I cannot make any sense of what’s happened. None at all,” Julia Meza said through tears during an interview with Today on Tuesday. “She would never go near an alligator, she would never irritate an alligator.”
Meza’s daughter, Cassandra Cline, was walking with her dog near a lagoon around 9:30 a.m. on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, when an 8-foot alligator attacked the dog.
Cline struggled to save her dog, but was attacked and pulled underwater by the alligator, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.
“I just keep thinking about her being dragged away by that,” Meza said. “I just, I just can’t imagine it.”
Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue and Sea Pines Security personnel arrived at the scene and found Cline, a resident of Sea Pines Living, in the water.
David Lucas, of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, told ABC News that Cline was still alive when she was pulled from the water, but died at the scene.
Sam Chapplear, with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, told ABC that Cline had gotten into a tug-of-war with the animal to save her dog before being attacked herself.
The alligator was later found and euthanized, according to the site. The dog survived the incident.
The Beaufort County Coroner, Edward Allen, scheduled an autopsy to be performed at the Medical University of South Carolina to determine Cline’s cause death, according to the sheriff’s office.
Now, Cline’s family and friends are remembering the woman they nicknamed “Sassy.”
“She was a wonderful, giving person,” Meza told Today, noting that her daughter was a kindergarten teacher. “She’s been one for years and she loved her students.”
Sea Pines Living officials wrote in a statement on Facebook that they are “shocked and heartbroken” after hearing the news.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the tragic loss of one of our Sea Pines property owners Cassandra Cline,” they wrote.
“The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement earlier today stating that Ms.Cline was killed by an alligator in a lagoon in the Club Course area of Sea Pines. An alligator—believed responsible for the attack—was located and removed from the scene.”