Moore Haven, FL (WINK) — A Glades County teenager is recovering after an alligator attack took off part of his right arm. Attempts to reattach the limb were unsuccessful.
Authorities say Kaleb Langdale, 17, also known as Fred, was swimming with friends in the Caloosahatchee River Monday in Moore Haven when the gator suddenly attacked. He was airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital as trappers began a search to find the alligator, and the boy's missing arm.
After a three-hour search, trappers found the alligator and Langdale's missing arm. The limb was rushed to hospital, but after being inside the gator for that long, doctors say they didn't want to risk a fatal infection by reattaching it.
"The gator was about two feet away from him, just came straight at him," said Matthew Baker, who was in the water with Langdale at the time.
Friends say the gator attack seemed to come out of nowhere.
"As soon as he'd seen Fred, the gator was coming after him. On top of the water, as fast as he could pedal, his tail was wagging back and forth, he was coming," said Gary Beck, who was on shore at the time, but jumped in to help get Langdale and the other boys out of the water.
"He said, my arm's gone. And he was freaked out, obviously," Beck said.
Friends who were in the river with him say Langdale knew exactly what to do.
"He's been around alligators all his life, He's smart enough, he knows if he offers him his arm, he won't take his torso. He was smart, he took the risk," Baker said.
These teens, like many of the families in Moore Haven are well aware of the presence of alligators in the water; but wildlife officials say now happens to be a very active time of year for gators.
"It's just after mating season, eggs are already laid, but the gators are still very active," said FWC Captain Jeff Ardelean. "Any type of commotion on the water is potential food in their eyes."
FWC officers say there had been reports of two gators called in from that same area earlier in the day.
The bite spawned the search to find the animal that attacked Langdale; trappers also hauled in several other gators in that time.
Friends say it won't stop them from enjoying the water, especially not Langdale.
"Especially not Fred," Beck said. "He'll be the first person back in."
Glades County Sheriff Stuart Whiddon said it's actually very unusual to have a gator attack a person in Moore Haven, though they have been known to go after dogs and other animals.