A Florida airboat captain loses his lower arm while allegedly attempting to feed an alligator by hand for tourists. WBBH's Julian Johnson reports.
EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. – An alligator bit off the hand of an Everglades airboat captain Tuesday in front of startled tourists, NBC station WBBH reported.
The victim, Wallace Weatherholt, 63, works for Captain Doug's Everglades Tours in Everglades City, according to WBBH of Fort Myers.
The gator was captured and killed after the attack so the man's hand could be retrieved from the animal's stomach, Florida Fish and Wildlife officers said. The hand was sent to NCH Hospital in Naples, where the victim was taken after the attack, but it is unclear if doctors were able to reattach it.
Based on witness accounts, wildlife officials suspect Weatherholt may have illegally fed the 9-foot gator. Despite having his hand bit off, Weatherholt could be charged with second-degree misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail if found guilty. An investigation is ongoing and officers asked any additional witnesses to come forward.
"I was kind of freaked out about that because that's kind of weird," said Everglades City resident Sarah Goff. "You don't feed them. They can get used to that and get aggressive."
Neighbors told WBBH the victim is a very kind man.
"He was a nice guy and I'm really sorry for what happened to him," said Olga Pereira.
Wildlife officers say the unfortunate incident is a reminder of why it is illegal to touch, harass or feed alligators.
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