GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. - GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. - Tim Delano woke up Monday morning with a sobering reminder of Sunday evening’s nightmare.
He has lost his left hand, but is thankful to still have his life.
Delano, 18 of Golden Gate Estates, was attacked by a 10-foot alligator in a canal near Everglades Boulevard and Alligator Alley – a popular swimming hole known as the Crystal.
His new mission, he said, is to have the Crystal closed down to swimmers.
Delano was swimming with three friends Sunday evening as sunlight was draining away, when he was suddenly attacked.
He said he heard a large cracking sound – the gator clamping down on his left hand – then he was pulled down into the murky water.
Soon, he realized what was happening. The gator was trying to tear him into pieces with a “death roll.”
“Fortunately, I had enough sense to take my right hand and I started punching it,” he said.
The gator let go. He swam to the surface and looked at the place where his hand used to be.
“I saw my bone,” he said. “I had no hand. That was it. I starting screaming – cursing at the world.”
He got to shore, he said, then got into his truck with his friends.
He said the pain was “excruciating.”
Delano, with one arm wrapped, starting dialing 911 as a friend drove him toward civilization.
As he waited for Collier County Emergency Medical Services to respond, he said he also called his mother and left her this message: “Mom, I have no left hand. Goodbye.”
Delano was flown to Lee Memorial Trauma Center and immediately taken into surgery.
Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission sent a tracker to hunt down the attacking alligator.
The tracker brought back the culprit, a 10-feet-long by 2-feet-wide gator, said FWC spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro. She said the tracker likely spotted it based on its description and the behavior.
When FWC “harvested” the gator, Ferraro said, they found Delano’s severed hand.
Doctors told him they would not reattach it, though, the patient said, because it would probably hold too many toxins.
Delano, a recent graduate of Palmetto Ridge High School, is now recovering at Lee Memorial.
He said he doesn’t know how long his rehabilitation will take, but now he hopes to clear the waters of swimmers at the Crystal.
“I hope they will shut it down” he said. “So no accidents like this will happen again.”
Delano said he had swum the Crystal several times before with friends. He had seen families with children in those waters.
“I was told there were no animals where we swam,” he said.
Ferraro said people should recognize that any fresh water body in Florida could contain alligators. She said those animals hunt at dawn and dusk.
“If there is an item there and the opportunity presents itself,” she said, “they will prey.”
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