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Florida teen loses arm -- but not his wit -- to alligator

July 10, 2012|By Rene Lynch

An alligator attacked 17-year-old Kaleb Langdale on Monday, severing his right arm below the elbow, but it didn’t take the Florida teenager’s sense of humor.  Friends say he was happy the gator got his right arm -- not his left -- because he uses his left arm to steer his airboat.

The alligator attacked the teenager after the youth dove into a gator-filled river to cool off on a sweltering summer day. The teen's arm was found inside the 11-foot reptile when it was hunted down and killed Monday evening, according to Fort Myers television station WBBH.

Friends say Langdale of Moore Haven, Fla., was swimming in the Caloosahatchee River, which links Lake Okeechobee with the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida, when the alligator seemed to surge out of nowhere.

"It just came right at him ... it took his arm and took him under," one of the teen's friends, Matt Baker, told the TV station.

Langdale's aunt, LaDawn Hayes, told ABCNews.com, that the teen made a split-second decision to sacrifice his arm, a decision that likely saved his life: Hayes said the teen thought to himself, "It's either my life or my arm." So when the alligator bit down, Langdale saw an opportunity to rip free, she said.

"The gator took the arm. He felt the bones break, felt everything kind of go and made a choice at that point that it was either his arm or his life," Hayes told ABC. "So he took his feet and pushed as hard as he could push until his arm broke free."

The teenager was flown to Lee Memorial Hospital, where he is recovering.

A captain with Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's a bad time -- and place -- for swimming.

"This area isn't Disneyland ... there are thousands of alligators here,"  commission captain Jeff Ardelean told the TV station. Moreover, it's the tail-end of alligator mating season.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident. A representative did not return a phone call seeking comment before this story was posted.

If you watch the video, be sure to stick around for the end, when another teenager acknowledges the danger of swimming in alligator-infested waters ... but says it still won't keep him out of the river permanently.

The incident comes one month after a Florida boat captain lost a hand to an alligator while leading a tour into the Everglades. The captain is suspected of illegally feeding the alligator in a bid to help tourists snap a picture of the 'gator in action. That incident is also under investigation for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ and Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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