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Diver OOA at 15m – while pinned under alligator


American alligator (
American alligator (

A US scuba diver has survived being pinned to a riverbed at a depth of 15m by an irate alligator, just at the moment his air tank ran out.

Will Georgitis was fortunate to get away with nothing worse than a broken and badly mauled arm following the rare encounter in the Cooper River, near Goose Creek in South Carolina, on 15 April.

Georgitis had been indulging in the popular pursuit of diving in search of megalodon teeth, and had found a number of fossilised shark teeth on the day, according to a report in Charleston's Post & Courier.

He saw the alligator heading straight towards him as he surfaced and, as it opened its jaws, raised his right arm in a bid to stop it biting his head. It clamped onto his wetsuited arm between wrist and elbow.

Fearing that the animal would try to twist him down under water, Georgitis wrapped his left arm and legs around its body – though the 6ft 2in diver was unable to hook his ankles together either side of it because of its size.

Using his left arm, he resorted to stabbing at the alligator with the screwdriver he used to prise fossils from the riverbed, aiming for its eye. The reptile responded by diving towards the bottom, at least 15m down, and pinned him there, restricting his ability to continue stabbing it. At this point his air tank ran dry.

Prepared to lose arm

In a final desperate bid to free himself, Georgitis planted his feet against the alligator and pushed as hard as he could, prepared to sacrifice his right arm if necessary. Somehow his arm scraped out from between the animal's teeth and the diver made a rapid ascent to the surface, where a friend pulled him into their boat.

“The only thing going through my head was pure fear,” the diver said later of the experience. His ulna, the long bone in his forearm, was broken and the shorter radius bone dislocated.

Surgeons inserted a metal plate using nine screws and stapled together the wounds caused by the alligator’s teeth. Further surgery was not ruled out, and the diver was told to allow six months for recovery. 

Georgitis reported his near-death experience to the state Department of Natural Resources, to ensure that other divers were forewarned. He had dived at the same bend in the river regularly for around six years without incident, although seeing alligators in the area was not unusual.

There are estimated to be some 100,000 American alligators, a federally protected species, in South Carolina, but such inwater incidents have been relatively rare.

Also read: Palm Beach’s Exquisite Reefs: An Underwater Journey with Walt Stearns, South Carolina couple find fossilised megalodon tooth while out walking

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