POSTED: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 6:00pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 6:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Laying in his hospital bed, the wounds and memories of the alligator attack that took his right arm are still fresh for 17-year-old Kaleb Langdale.
It happened in the muddy waters of Florida's Caloosahatchee River, a place where Kaleb and his friends spend most of their summer days.
On Monday the teenager his friends call "Fred" was leading the group on a swim across the river when an 11-foot alligator suddenly surfaced.
"It was going full speed towards him as fast as it could go on top of the water, and Fred just paced himself and he put his arm up when the gator came," said witness and friend Gary Beck.
Kaleb describes what happened next:
"I was trying to, like, hold on to him so he couldn't bite me, but he done a death roll and knocked me off, so I took my foot and I kicked trying to like gain speed to go to the bank. And when I was I was swimming like throwing my arms back and forth, this one he got it. He done another death roll and broke all the bones. Everything in it. Like, I just felt it's gone."
His right arm below the elbow was gone.
Still, somehow he made it to shore.
"Whenever I got up to the bank it was still bleeding a little bad, so I took my arm and put it in between my legs and squeezed to stop the bleeding," Kaleb says.
Trappers captured the gator and recovered the teenager's arm but it couldn't be reattached.
Somehow, the 17-year-old is able to put it all into perspective.
"I'm just happy that I'm still alive, my buddies are still alive, I could care less about the arm," he says.
Instead he's busy running hospital halls in his wheelchair, figuring out how he'll drive his four-wheeler now and when he'll be able to get back out on the water.