"He had his arm on the wrong side of the security glass," police said

By Robyn Merrett
August 21, 2019 08:19 PM
Fidel Castro's crocodile 
David Keyton/AP/Shutterstock

An elderly man has been hospitalized after being attacked by a crocodile — once owned by late Cuban leader Fidel Castro — at an aquarium in Sweden.

The man was enjoying a private crawfish party at the Skansen Aquarium in Stockholm on Tuesday when the crocodile suddenly bit him, BBC News and The Local Sweden reported.

“He had his arm on the wrong side of the security glass and was then bitten by one of the crocodiles,” police control room officer Mikael Pettersson told Swedish News Agency TT, The Local Sweden reported.

The man, who police described as being in his mid-70s, was transported to a nearby hospital by ambulance, according to The Local Sweden.

Despite the horrifying incident, the man was reportedly in “stable” condition following the attack, the news outlet reported.

When emergency responders arrived on the scene, Pettersson said, “He was heavily bandaged when we arrived on the scene.”

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In 1978, Castro gifted two crocodiles to a Russian cosmonaut. The cosmonaut then gave the animals — named Castro and Hillary —  to the aquarium in 1981, according to The Local Sweden. Castro died in 2016.

It is not immediately clear which crocodile attacked the man.

The man’s identity has not been revealed to the public.

Jonas Wahlström, head of the Skansen Aquarium, has also spoken out about the incident. Wahlström explained to The Local Sweden that he organized the crawfish party — which is a Swedish tradition that normally takes place during this time of year — and was there at the time of the event.

He shared that he saw the man with his arm dangled on the glass, however, when he went to warn him it was too late.

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“What I saw was that he climbed up on a rock and was holding one of his arms over the glass barrier of the crocodile exhibit because he was going to give a speech, Wahlström told The Local Sweden.

“He turned his back and the crocodile saw his hand coming down from his arm and just attacked him and bit him,” he explained to the outlet, adding that the attack lasted for about “ten seconds.”

“Luckily, the crocodile dropped him after maybe ten seconds so he could be taken care of,” Wahlström said to The Local Sweden.

Before medics could attend to him, a few doctors who attended the party helped stop the bleeding by “using a belt and napkins,” Wahlström told the outlet.

Wahlström went on to share that the man is expected to recover, telling The Local Sweden, “He may have severe wounds on his arm that I don’t know anything about at the moment, because he was taken to the hospital late last evening.”

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“I haven’t spoken to him, but I expect to hear from his family soon.”

In response to the incident, Wahlström says the aquarium is considering redesigning the enclosure so that guests are not as exposed to the crocodiles.

“First of all, we have to change a little bit on the walls for crocodiles so it’s impossible to climb up like what he did. And we started that work today. Nothing like this has ever happened with these crocodiles before, we’ve had them for more than 40 years,” Wahlström told The Local Sweden.

The aquarium did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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