Jeffrey Heim was looking for fossilized shark teeth in the Myakka River in Florida when the nine-foot-long beast jumped up and clenched its jaws around his head.
“It hit me twice, once right here and once right here and I think my hand might have protected my face ‘cause I got a puncture wound on the top [and] a puncture wound on the bottom,” Heim told Fox35 about the injuries.
He said that the whole incident “happened so fast,” and there was nothing he could do to stop it. When he came up for air, that’s when the alligator pulled him down and pulled his mask off.
“I came up and just get blasted by what felt like a propeller on a boat going 50 miles per hour.”
He was able to get his head above the water afterwards and that’s when he and the alligator locked eyes.
“We just looked at each other. I didn’t flail all around ‘cause it would have just triggered its prey even more,” Heim recalled.
The alligator eventually lost interest in him and he was able to make it back to shore. Four people were reportedly nearby and he called out to them for help. He also says at one point that he was trying to remain conscious.
“It’s very scary when you ask someone how bad is it and they hesitate and they reassure you and you can hear it in their voice if it’s worse than what they’re telling you,” he said.
He received 34 stitches and had a minor skull injury.
Heim remained calm throughout the frightening incident and is thankful that he knows how to react in a situation like this and has learned a valuable lesson.
“Your life is worth more than any shark tooth or whatever that is for you; whatever you enjoy.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reportedly continuing the search for the alligator.