The Associated PressMONCKS CORNER, S.C. -
An alligator bit a 59-year-old man's arm off Sunday at a Lake Moultrie recreation area, officials said.
Bill Hedden, 59, was in critical condition at the Medical University of South Carolina. His arm, retrieved from the belly of the alligator after wildlife officers shot it, was on ice while doctors evaluated whether it could be reattached, said Bill Salisbury, Berkeley County Rescue Squad captain.
Wildlife officials said it was one of the worst gator attacks in the state, but no one saw it except the victim.
Hedden stumbled into a party of picnickers with his arm missing and blood gushing from his wound. Five nurses were among those at the gathering and put ice on his wound and kept him awake until paramedics could arrive.
Jerome Bien followed the man's trail of blood to the shore, where he saw the gator with victim's arm in its jaw. "He was just smiling at me," Bien said.
Department of Natural Resources officers showed up later and shot the animal, which was nearly 12-feet long and weight about 550 pounds. The officers cut the gator open and removed the man's arm, which was bagged, put in an ice cooler and rushed to the hospital with a police escort.
"The arm, surprisingly, was not chewed up like you would think it would be," Salisbury said.
A hospital spokeswoman said medical laws prohibited her from discussing Hedden's treatment.
There have been no confirmed deaths involving an alligator attack, state wildlife officials say.
"To my knowledge this is the worst case scenario we've had in the state," said Sam Chappelear, wildlife regional coordinator for the state Natural Resources Department. He said it's rare to see an alligator so large.
Officials think Hedden was snorkeling when he was attacked. "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."
The report in our local paper added that despite all this, the man "was in high spirits."