A Florida man free diving a river in search of prehistoric shark’s teeth was bitten on the head by an alligator when he came up for air.
Jeffrey Heim, 25, frequently scans the bed of the Myakka River in search of fossilized shark’s teeth, WTVT reported.
“I just love being in that river – it’s a boneyard down there,” he said. “There’s a lot going on down there, and even though it’s shallow, that river is wild.”
However, last Sunday, he found more than fossils when an alligator bite him on the head.
“It just hit me twice – once right here, once right here – and I think my hand might have protected my face because I have a puncture wound on the top and bottom. But it just happened so fast, there’s nothing I could have done to defend myself,” Heim said. “I come up, and just get blasted by what felt like a propeller on a boat going 50 miles per hour. It pulled me down, pulled my mask off.”
He broke free and locked eyes with the reptile, which he estimated to be about 9 feet long, NBC News reported. The alligator left and Heim was able to make it to shore. Four people nearby called for help. Paramedics arrived and Heim was taken to a hospital.
“It’s very scary when you ask someone, ‘Am I going to be OK?’ and they hesitate,” he said. “And they just reassure you, and you can hear it in their voice that it’s worse than what they’re telling you. That’s scary.”
Heim received 34 staples and a mild skull fracture.
“If it would have got me anywhere else, it could have been a different story. The chance of me walking away from that is why it is a miracle,” Heim told WFLA.
He said the incident will not keep him from going back in the water.
“Your life is worth more than any shark tooth – or whatever you enjoy,” he said. “But I won’t stop diving, I’m just going to find safer ways to do it. Probably not in that river.”
Florida wildlife officials were searching the river for the gator but had not been able to find and trap it.
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