LUCKY TO BE ALIVE
A prayer and a pounding on an alligator’s head may have saved Rachael Lilienthal, 37, from being eaten by a vicious gator on Florida’s Wekiva River in 2015. After the gator initially attacked, the lecturer prayed. Then a kayaker pounded his paddle on its head, which prompted the animal to take off — with Lilienthal’s arm, the Orlando Sentinel reported. This story’s ending, Lilienthal later said, could have been much worse.
On Oct. 19, 2015, James Okkerse was enjoying a swim with two friends when he disappeared at around 9 a.m., NBC News reported at the time. The 62-year-old was found dead in Blue Spring State Park by afternoon with a 12-ft. alligator nearby, The Daytona Beach News-Journal said. The alligator was caught and euthanized that afternoon.
David Quarterman would do anything to keep his dogs safe — even fight off a 9-foot-long gator. On Sept. 21, 2015, Quarterman, a 5-foot 5-inch man, weighing 150 pounds, sprang into action near Savannah, Georgia, and punched a giant alligator in the eye after the animal grabbed Sheba, his 70-lb. Labrador retriever. “When that gator raised up out of the water with my dog in his mouth, he looked like something out of a Hollywood horror movie,” the 58-year-old building contractor told PEOPLE. “My dogs are like my children and I’d do anything to protect them.”
Despite a sign warning people to stay out of the water because of alligators, a 28-year-old man named Tommie Woodward was attacked and killed by one during a late night swim at a Southeast Texas Marina in July of 2015. The 11-foot gator was later illegally shot dead, and Woodward’s body parts were found inside.
When a 10-foot alligator grabbed hold of Kaleb Langdale’s arm, he knew he was in deep trouble in Florida’s Caloosahatchee River. “If I could break my arm off I had a chance. If I couldn’t break my arm off, I was dead,” the 17-year-old told the Palm Beach Post from his Fort Myers hospital room, not long after the gator tore his right arm off just below the elbow in 2012. The limb was later recovered from the animal’s stomach, but could not be reattached.
In 2010, Mugsy the cat made a name for himself when he was approached by two vicious alligators that emerged from the Bayou swamp. A fight scene — complete with the brave cat inflicting mighty blows on the gators’ snouts — was captured on video. It has 12 million YouTube views and counting.
A Canadian woman named Gwen Williams, 83, was house-sitting for her daughter in a luxury gated retirement community just east of Savannah, Georgia, in 2007, when she was attacked and killed by an 8-foot gator at The Landings on Skidway Island, the National Post reported. A couple in a golf cart found her body floating in a pond some 500 feet from the home, and later an aggressive alligator was shot and killed by a local trapper called in to scour the lagoon.
ON THE RUN
In November of 2007, a 36-year-old theft suspect named Justo Padron, who fled into an alligator-infested lake after burglarizing a vehicle, turned up dead the next day with gator-teeth marks on his upper torso, authorities told the Associated Press. A 9-foot-3-inch-long alligator suspected in the attack on Padron was later killed.
Aspiring artist Annemarie Campbell, 23, disappeared while snorkeling near a cabin on a creek in Florida’s Ocala National Forest. TIME reported that family later confronted an 11 1/2-foot alligator that was firmly holding Campbell’s upper body in its jaws – but by the time the creature finally let go, it was too late. Campbell died with massive head trauma and lungs filled with water.