An alligator attacked an 84-year-old Florida woman in the canal behind her home, ripping off one of her arms.
The woman, identified as Carol Hough of Leesburg, was pulled from the waters by a neighbor who heard her cries for help, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Hough was airlifted to a hospital where she underwent surgery; she is reportedly in critical condition.
Authorities quickly began attempting to locate the alligator that attacked Hough and now believe they've identified the one responsible. They plan to kill the reptile and perform a necropsy -- an animal autopsy -- to determine if it is indeed the alligator in question.
The Sentinel's interview with the neighbor who saved Hough depicts a chilling scene. The man heard Hough's shrieks around 6:30 a.m., calling 911 before jumping into the water to save her. He dragged her to a sandy bank then tried to comfort her.
"I just held her," Delmas Zickefoose told the newspaper. "I kept telling her, 'The rescue squad is on the way.'"
The woman's left arm was missing, he said, but she had stopped screaming and did not appear to be in any pain. She kept muttering, "Gator, gator," he said, and asking for her late husband until emergency responders arrived.
Many questions still surround the attack.
Neighbors interviewed by the media said everyone in the area is well aware that the canal waters running behind their homes are thick with alligators. So how did Hough end up in the water? Did she fall or wander into the water -- or was she dragged?
Alligator attacks are rare in Florida, but not unheard of. Earlier this summer, a teenager was attacked by an alligator while swimming in a river; he lost part of his arm in that attack. Also this summer: An air boat captain leading tourists on a tour of the Everglades lost his hand when an alligator lunged from the water and bit it off. (He is suspected of illegally feeding the alligators at the time.)
Efforts to reach the Lake County Sheriff's Office were not successful before this story was posted online.
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