A DIVER had a lucky escape on Sunday after an alligator bit down on his head while he was searching a river for shark teeth leaving him with horrific injuries that required 34 staples.
Jeffrey Heim, 25, said he had “no time to defend himself” when suddenly confronted with the animal that attacked him so fiercely he believed he had been struck by a fast-moving boat.
Heim was wearing only diving gear as he searched for megalodon teeth in the Myakka River in Florida before being attacked from behind by the female, nine-foot-long alligator, WFLA reports.
“I just love being at the bottom of that river, it’s a boneyard down there,” the personal trainer told Fox 35, adding that he’d only been in the water for a minute when he was attacked.
“I came up and I just get blasted by what felt like a propeller, like a boat going 50mph. It pulled me down with my mask off.
“You never understand the power of a wild animal like that until you’re in its mouth.”
Heim said the alligator bit down twice on his head leaving him with a fractured skull but he used his hand to protect much of his face.
“I think my hand may have protected my face because I got a puncture wound in the top and a puncture wound in the bottom but it just happened so fast there was no way I could have defended myself,” he said.
“We just looked at each other and I didn’t flail around because that would have just triggered its prey instincts even more.
“I was calm, thank God, so now I know how I react in a situation like that.”
The lucky diver said that for some reason, the alligator lost interest in him and swam four feet away.
Heim said he began to move slowly back until he was able to get himself to the shore.
“I just learned from dealing with sharks, you don’t wanna act like prey so you don’t wanna move too fast. So, I started slowly moving away,” he explained.
Back on dry land, Heim found four people who were able to call 911 and he was brought to the hospital.
He said he was struggling to remain conscious in the ambulance and could tell the paramedics were concerned.
"It’s very scary when you ask someone, ‘am I going to be ok?’ and they hesitate,” he said.
“And they just reassure you and you can hear it in their voice that it’s worse than what they’re telling you. That’s scary."
Heim was left with a minor skull fracture, 34 stitches in his head, and puncture wounds to his hands but doctors told him he miraculously suffered no brain damage in the attack.
The 25-year-old now believes he has learned his lesson after the encounter.
“Your life is worth more than any shark tooth or whatever that is for you, whatever you enjoy,” he stated.
“I’m lucky it didn’t death roll,” Heim added.
“I’m lucky it didn’t get an arm, or a hand, or my face, or my neck, or my leg, or literally anywhere else.”
“I think he hit me right in the perfect spot. Someone was watching out.”
He also claims that he was in the wrong for being in the alligator’s territory.
“I didn’t weigh the risk to the rewards,” Heim claimed.
“Technically it’s gator mating season, so this was probably a female protecting her eggs.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Committee is continuing a hunt for the alligator and trapping efforts are ongoing.
“FWC’s response to alligator bite incidents is to remove the alligator involved,” it said in a statement.
“FWC wildlife experts use sound methods and take only those alligators needed to resolve the risk to public safety.
“Analysis is conducted to ensure the responsible alligator has been removed.”
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