A diver looking for shark teeth is attacked by an alligator in a Florida river and survives.
© Clément Bardot via Wikimedia Commons
A diver looking for shark teeth is attacked by an alligator in a Florida river and survives.
A Florida diver was searching for prehistoric shark teeth but found himself on the receiving end of an alligator's teeth instead.

CNN reported that 25-year-old Jeffrey Heim sustained a skull fracture from an alligator attack last Sunday on Florida's Myakka River, in Sarasota County. The wound to the back of his head required 34 staples to close, and Heim also had puncture wounds on his hand from the alligator's bite.

Initially, the Tampa man thought he'd been hit by a boat propeller, the report said, but then saw the alligator looking at him.


Heim described the attack to CNN, saying, "It felt very heavy and it really felt like it was moving very fast." He added, "It felt blunt. It felt like a blunt force. I didn't feel the cutting, I felt a pulling."


Hoping to find megalodon teeth in the river bottom's gravel, he took a few deep breaths and dove down, free diving without scuba tanks, the report stated. About 45 seconds later the alligator struck.

After the alligator's initial bites, and as it lunged at him, the report said Heim was able to "back away and climb back onto the river bank."

Fortunately, he was in a public place and was able to call people over for help. Heim told CNN that people called 911 while an ex-firefighter at the restaurant got a first-aid kit and bandaged his head.

Heim told the news outlet that after the attack he "felt really tired and just wanted to go to sleep," but "he feared he was going to die."

When he initially arrived at the hospital Heim told CNN he "joked and made light of what happened." But, that changed when right before he was about to get a CT scan, he realized how fortunate he was to have survived, and at that point, he had "a very religious and emotional moment."

"The situation really just emotionally came crashing down on me," Heim said. "I cried so hard that day for about an hour or two. (I) just could not stop crying and I was thanking God."

Following a day-and-a-half in the hospital, Heim told CNN his swelling has gone down a lot, and he's on antibiotics to fight off infection.

"I was probably too comfortable diving during mating season," Heim told the news outlet. "I should have known better."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), alligators' courtship activities begin in April, and as temperatures warm up they get more active, the report cited.

Despite the severity of his injuries, Heim says he hopes the alligator isn't killed. He blamed the attack on mistaken identity.

Heim told CNN that diving for fossils is his way of relaxing. Some of his finds become part of his collection, some he turns into jewelry and sells, with some proceeds donated to promote shark conservation.

Reportedly, Heim plans to continue diving once he's recuperated, but "he'll stay away from the Myakka River."