Wildlife officers in Florida have captured and euthanized a 300-pound alligator involved in an attack on a woman last Saturday. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), 37-year-old Rachel Lilienthal was swimming upstream in the Wekiva River near Wekiva Island Marina when she was confronted by an alligator. At the time, she was swimming away from the crowded beach and there were other visitors in the water.
“Lilienthal was bitten at least twice and her right arm was severed above the elbow. As she struggled against the alligator, kayakers came to her rescue. One of the kayakers struck the alligator with a paddle, causing the animal to release Lilienthal,” the FWC reported.
The kayakers, a group of young couples who just happened to be in the vicinity, then guarded the woman and transported her back to shore, where she received first aid before reaching a local hospital. Lilienthal was also bitten on the back and abdomen.
“I looked down and that’s when I saw the water all around us was just red,” 19-year-old Joshua Helwig, one of the kayakers who came to Lilienthal’s rescue, told WFTV.
Helwig and his girlfriend were paddling towards Wekiva Island when they heard the victim’s screams. When they got closer to investigate, they found Lilienthal attempting to escape an alligator who had already bitten off her forearm. At this point another kayaker, Casey Spencer, dazed the reptile with a solid smack on the head from his paddle. This allowed Helwig to move in and scoop the woman into his kayak. He said one of his biggest concerns was not tipping over the kayak when retrieving Lilienthal.
“It’s kind of something that I don’t think any of us will ever forget,” Helwig said. “I’m just so glad that all of us were there at the right time to help her out.”
Officials confirmed the captured alligator as the one who attacked Lilienthal due to the contents of its stomach. Lilienthal has since undergone surgery and is still recovering.