VENICE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — A Florida man miraculously survived an alligator attack that took him underwater while he was searching for teeth of extinct sharks.
Jeffrey Heim, 25, was scouring the Myakka River when a 9-foot alligator dragged him below the river’s surface during an attack that would ultimately result in 34 stitches and a minor skull fracture.
“The feeling of being in a gator’s mouth…that felt like a boating going 50 mph and I was like ‘Where did that boat come from?’” said Heim.
Considering everything that followed, Heim says he shouldn’t have gone in the river.
“I should have known better, that’s my fault. I accept responsibility for that,” he said. “But I was putting on my wet suit at the [riverbank] and I was casually looking for big gators — I’ve swum with them before albeit at a different time of the year. I’ve swum in that river before. I just slipped into the water…I kind of exhausted all options for finding shark teeth that day and the day before and that was my last option and I just really wanted some.”
He said, in this situation, he felt the reward outweighed the risk. Until he said he got hit and began to feel a pulling sensation.
“I’m so lucky that it didn’t hold on, that it wasn’t a larger gator, that it didn’t death roll, that I didn’t get knocked out…and that there were people around to yell to for help,” said Heim.
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As for how he was able to escape, Heim believes it was a case of “mistaken identity.”
“I don’t fault the gator for anything,” said Heim. “I think it thought I was a turtle.”
He said he’s feeling better now but still a little tired.
Eight days after the attack, Heim is already back at work.