The article has a link to the TV coverage as well as the mp3 audio of the 911 tape.
” ‘I have two broken arms, and an alligator’s got me pinned. I can’t move. Please help me,’ ” the Polk County deputy sheriff recalled the man saying at a news conference Wednesday.
As Osborne listened, he followed the pleading voice through more than 20 yards of weeds in Lake Parker’s murky, chest-deep water about 4 a.m.
Then he saw them: a naked man slumped over, caught in the jaws of a huge alligator amid thick cattails in bloodied water. He said the man, who had been using drugs and lost a lot of blood, seemed oddly calm. Two other deputies came after, following the man’s cries, Osborne’s voice and the sounds of the alligator thrashing in the water.
Osborne grabbed the man’s arm and tried to pull him free.
“We were pretty much playing tug of war,” Osborne said.
After about 30 seconds, the alligator released the man, whom the Polk County Sheriff’s Office identified as 45-year-old Adrian Apgar of nearby Polk City.
The gator nearly severed Apgar’s left arm, broke his right arm, and took significant bites out of his buttocks and the back of a thigh. He underwent surgery Wednesday and was in critical condition, sheriff’s officials said.
“We don’t know whether he’ll make it or not,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said.
In all, it took three deputies and their sergeant about 20 minutes to find and rescue Apgar in Lake Parker.
Bringing the 6-feet-1, 250-pound victim to shore was a daunting task, the deputies said. They sank into the muddy lake bottom with every step.
“They were very tired,” said Sgt. Andrew Williams, who joined the three deputies in the water to help bring Apgar to shore.
Judd said Apgar told deputies he had been smoking crack cocaine at the adjacent park, but it was unclear why he was naked or how he was attacked by the alligator.
A state wildlife official said investigators don’t know whether Apgar was on land or in the water when he was attacked. Apgar told deputies he had fallen asleep on the beach before the gator dragged him into the water, but Judd said deputies aren’t sure the man’s account is accurate because of his drugged condition.
A trapper caught a nearly 12-foot, 600-pound alligator Wednesday afternoon that investigators think could have been the one involved in the attack because it was feeding near where Apgar was found, agency spokesman Gary Morse said. The animal was to be destroyed later.
The deputies responded to Lake Parker, which is north of U.S. Highway 92 in east Lakeland, about 4:10 a.m. after receiving several calls about a man screaming for help.
Lakeland resident Lee Dominguez said he was fishing off a pier on the south side of the lake when he heard a man yelling for help, but he did not call 911.
“I thought someone was fighting,” Dominguez said. “He was hollering for about 20 minutes.”
Like the deputies, Dominguez said he couldn’t see anyone in the dark.
Judd said he is “very proud” of his deputies and their rescue.
“[Apgar] is alive today, in extremely critical condition today, because of these deputies,” Judd said.
At a news conference nearly 12 hours after the rescue, the deputies said they were fearful of the alligator and of possibly being attacked themselves as they waded through Lake Parker, known as a haven for the mammoth reptiles.
Osborne, who was about 2 feet from the gator when he engaged in the “tug of war,” said he didn’t hesitate to go after Apgar.
“He was dying. He needed help,” Osborne said.
Deputy David Clements, the third to arrive at the site, said he heard the alligator thrashing and then silence.
“I was definitely afraid,” Clements said. “We haven’t had this training before, I can assure you that.”
The deputies did not consider themselves heroes.
“We’re here to serve the public,” Williams said.
But Judd said otherwise. “They’re absolutely heroes.”
Amy L. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-422-3395.
Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel