Man's arm salvaged from alligator's belly
The Post and Courier
Monday, September 17, 2007
Doctors can't reattach limb severed in gator attack
A large alligator attacked a man swimming in Lake Moultrie Sunday September 16, 2007.
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MONCKS CORNER — They were feasting on roast pork and dancing the Macarena while picnicking at Lake Moultrie on Sunday afternoon when a man in snorkel gear stumbled through the tree line, grasping at his left shoulder where his arm used to be.
Blood gushed from between his fingers.
'Call my wife, call my wife,' the man said through a snorkel mask.
Five nurses who were among those at the gathering quickly laid the man on the ground. They put ice on his wound, instructed him to take deep breaths and told him stories to keep him awake.
One of the picknickers, Jerome Bien, traced the bloody trail through the tree line and to the shore where he saw a pool of blood in the sand. About 25 feet out in the water in front of him, the eyes of a giant alligator stared back. The victim's arm remained clenched in its jaws.
'He was just smiling at me,' Bien said.
One of the worst alligator attacks in South Carolina's history had just unfolded, officials said.
At the Short Stay Naval Recreational Park, members of the Bicol Assocation of Charleston, of group of Filipino Roman Catholics, halted their picnic to help save the man's life. Paramedics showed up 15 minutes after the attack and stabilized the man until a helicopter could airlift him to the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was in critical condition Sunday night.
Department of Natural Resources officers showed up later and shot the 11-foot, 10-inch gator with a rifle. Officers cut the 550-pound carnivorous reptile open and removed the man's whole arm from its stomach. DNR officers bagged the arm and placed it in a picnicker's ice cooler and then rushed it to the hospital with a police escort.
'The arm, surprisingly, was not chewed up like you would think it would be,' said Bill Salisbury, Berkeley County Rescue Squad captain.
Officials identified the man as 59-year-old Bill Hedden of Summerville. Salisbury said doctors were still trying to decide if the arm could be reattached. A hospital spokeswoman said medical laws prohibited her from discussing specifics.
Officials ranked the attack as probably the worst in the state because there have never been any confirmed deaths from alligator attacks in South Carolina.
'To my knowledge this is the worst case scenario we've had in the state,' said Sam Chappelear, DNR regional coordinator
Officials believe Hedden was snorkeling at the time but no one saw the attack. It's anyone guess whether he surprised the animal or didn't realize it was there, Chappelear said.
'Basically until we talk to him, no one knows exactly what happened,' Chappelear said.
Bien said the man's arm was completely torn off.
'He was bleeding bad,' Bien said. 'His arm was clean off the socket.'
Will Sunday's alligator attack in Lake Moultie scare you away from the water?
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Jo Masauding, one of the nurses who came to Hedden's aid, said he never lost consciousness even as blood drenched his body.
Salisbury said that before DNR agents arrived at the scene, they called and asked him to shoot the alligator, but all he had was a pistol.
A DNR officer showed up later and killed it with a rifle from about 25 feet away while it was still in the water.
Chappelear said the alligator is close to record size for South Carolina. There are some 13-footers, but sightings are rare.
'You hardly ever see one that big,' Chappelear said.
Tom Boyd, director of the park, said this was the first alligator attack they've ever had. About 200,000 people visit the park each year.
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