EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. (CBS) — An Indiana family on a trip to Florida watched in horror as an airboat captain giving a tour of the Everglades lost his left hand, when a 9-foot alligator bit it off.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, Judy Chroniak-Hatt of Fowler, Ind., was on the boat in the Everglades in southwest Florida with two other women and two young children, when the boat captain hung a fish over the side.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports
At that point, the alligator attacked and latched onto boat Capt. Wallace “Wally” Weatherholt’s left hand. The alligator ended up ripping his hand off.
The Naples, Fla., News reports the alligator was located and euthanized, and Weatherholt’s hand was removed from the animal’s digestive tract. But doctors were unsuccessful in trying to reattach Weatherholt’s hand, the newspaper reported.
The manager at Captain Doug’s Everglades Tours says passengers weren’t hurt, and he says the company does not condone feeding alligators.
Meanwhile, a criminal investigation is underway, because it is a second-degree misdemeanor to feed alligators in Florida.
Brenda Lee, another family member who was on the boat, described the terrifying moments leading up to the attack.
“[Weatherholt] was splashing water and throwing fish to the alligator to get it to come up and kind of put on a little show.”
Brenda and her two sons were sitting in the front of the airboat.
“He went to throw the fish a second time, and that’s when the gator jumped up and grabbed his arm.”
Just moments after the attack, a worker a Captain Doug’s called 911: “Awe Jesus Christ, it’s my boat captain. Awe Jesus Lord Christ, it looks like he’s lost his hand!”
Lee said they were all in shock and disbelief. She said investigators took her camera.
“One of my shots does show his hand in the gator’s mouth with food and you can see the fish.”
“We all, I think, had horrible nightmares,” Lee said. “We all decided this is our last airboat ride.”