Broward County

She reached for a dropped can and found the jaws of an alligator

An alligator nearly bit a woman’s hand off in the Everglades Friday night, deputies say.

She was sitting on a bench at Willard’s Fish Camp just after 6 p.m. when she dropped a can in the water. The woman reached for it and instead found the jaws of a four-to-five-foot long alligator, said Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles. In the wild, alligators hear a splash and move fast to chomp their dinner.

A group of family members and bystanders pulled the woman to safety and tended to her until Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue flight medics arrived at the spot, about a mile and half west of where Wiles Road dead hits the Sawgrass Expressway.

They landed on a dock at the camp and ran the 50 feet to the wounded woman, who was “drifting in and out of consciousness.” She lost a lot of blood.

“The whole time they were there, the alligator was right there in the water,” Jachles said.

A seven minute helicopter ride later, she was at Broward Health North with her right hand barely attached. The 49-year-old Central Florida woman is in critical condition, but Jachles said she got to the hospital within the “golden hour” for trauma care.

“The chances for survival greatly diminish after that,” he said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident.

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc