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Prepping & Survival

Fossil Hunter Fights Off Gator Attack, with a Screwdriver, While Trapped Underwater

A South Carolina fossil hunter is lucky to be alive and with both arms intact after a near-death encounter with an alligator last week. William Georgitis, who lives near Charleston, was scuba diving in the Cooper River on April 15 when he was brutally attacked, death-rolled, and pinned to the bottom of the river by the large gator. The attack lasted for around 15 minutes, according to one of Georgitis’ friends. At one point, with his mangled arm stuck in the alligator’s jaws and no air left in his tank, Georgitis fought back with the only weapon he had at the time: a screwdriver.   

Now the experienced diver is warning other locals to be extra cautious when swimming in the area. And while Georgitis did not respond immediately to a request for comment, he’s shared his survival story with several local news outlets. (Graphic image warning.)

“It’s a well-known spot and this [alligator] is huge,” he told KRQE News on Friday. “He didn’t even take a second to attack me. He was on me as soon as he saw me. Whoever else is out there diving please be careful.”

Georgitis explained that he’d swam to the surface for a break when he saw the gator from roughly 20 feet away. It covered that distance in no time, “almost hydroplaning on the top” of the water. He said he couldn’t tell exactly how large the alligator was, only that it was much bigger than him — and he stands 6 feet 2 inches tall.

His first reaction was to shield his face with his right arm, which the alligator grabbed ahold of immediately. He knew the gator would try to roll him, so he wrapped his free arm around the gator’s head and his legs around its neck while the beast dragged him under the surface. That’s when he reached for the hand tool in his belt.

“I got my screwdriver that I use on the bottom of the river, and I stabbed him in the eye,” Georgitis said. “And when I did that, he shook me like a ragdoll.”

Read Next: What to Do When a Predator Attacks

With his right arm still clamped in the alligator’s jaw, Georgitis became disoriented when the gator pulled him down again. Only this time, the gator dragged him all the way to the bottom of the river, which was around 50 feet deep, and pinned him there. He stabbed the gator with his screwdriver again and again — aiming for the soft spots between its gums — but pretty soon a hyperventilating Georgitis had sucked all the air out of his tank.

“He took me to the bottom, and I could tell because my ears started popping and it got real black, and I hit the bottom with my shoulders and my neck and I could feel his weight pressing down on me,” he said. “And so I knew that was the end of my life at that moment.”

At that point, Georgitis recalled, he summoned his last bit of strength and wrenched his right arm from the alligator’s jaw.

“I just thought that I tore it off and when I got back to the surface, it was flopping down hanging like a wet noodle.”  

Georgitis swam straight for his boat, where his diving partner dragged him aboard and rushed him back to Bushy Park Boat Landing. Bleeding badly from his mangled right arm, which was dislocated and broken in several places, Georgitis was then transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.

In a Facebook post shared yesterday, Georgitis’ close friend Laurel Black gave an update on his condition. Black said that although his ulna had been snapped in half and his radius badly fractured, doctors were able to save his arm and hand after multiple surgeries. Because Georgitis does not have medical insurance, Black and other members of the local diving community are working to launch a GoFundMe page for him. She also shared his Venmo account information in Sunday’s post.

Read Next: Gator Bites Off Fisherman’s Hand on a Florida Golf Course

“We are not in the clear yet, as William is facing multiple other surgical procedures as well as months of physical therapy and recovery,” Black wrote in her post. “William will be unable to work for quite some time due to the extensive nature of his injuries.”

Black added that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources had been notified of the gator attack. It’s unclear if the DNR has made any efforts to track down the alligator.  

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