Animal handler recovering from gator attack
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (WSVN) -- An animal handler is recovering from injuries he sustained Saturday when an alligator lunged at him and chomped down on his arm while shocked spectators screamed for help.
Twenty-two-year-old Will Nace, a volunteer at the Native Village wildlife sanctuary in Hollywood, was performing tricks with the large reptile before a group of friends and family who had gathered there for a birthday party.
"It wasn't the alligator's fault," said Native Village co-owner and fellow handler Ian Tyson. "[Will found] himself in that situation. He knows that this is a wild animal that he's dealing with. He got himself into a bad spot."
Nace, who is currently recovering from his injuries at Memorial Regional Hospital, said he was never afraid of the scaly predator, even though the reptile, which is 13-feet long and weighs 800 pounds, is the largest specimen on the property. "My mind was 100 percent on getting out of his mouth," he said on Sunday night.
The handler was attempting to perform a "Lunge Alligator" demonstration, which involves him getting in front of an alligator and tapping it on the nose. Nace had been doing these shows three or four times a day for the past year, but as he approached the alligator, the beast behaved differently than in past occasions. "He ended up lunging at me before I got to his nose," he said.
"The alligator lunged out of the water ... and when this happened, he wasn't able to back himself out of the way quickly enough," said Tyson.
"My hand happened to be right in front of his face, so it lunged up, grabbed my hand and bent it backwards and bit down," Nace recalled.
"The alligator grabbed [Will] and pulled him back down into the water ... and went into what we call a death roll," Tyson continued. "They're trying to tear something off, and luckily enough, Will had enough knowledge to hold on to the alligator with his other hand and roll with the alligator."
"I held on, basically, because he decided to roll one way," Nace said. "He pulled me back all the way in the water, rolled with me. I was completely submerged underwater with him, and then by the time he came back ... out of the water, he'd let go."
The alligator broke Nace's right arm in two different places and ripped open his skin, starting from his palm all the way down to the middle of the limb. "I felt like, when my wrist broke -- I felt the bones break -- that still was not my first concern," he said. "My first concern was getting [the alligator] off me."
Tyson said the frightening turn of events doesn't surprise him. "We step into this pit knowing that that's what we're doing, that this animal can hurt us," he said.
Nace does not blame the alligator for the incident. "I just wasn't on my 'A' game yesterday," he said.
Tyson dispelled the notion that people in his line of work put themselves in danger strictly for an adrenaline high. "Once you start working with these animals, it's an education thing, trying to teach people about these animals, and the best way to do it is hands-on," said Tyson.
Nace is fighting an infection in his arm and might require skin grafts.
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