Thursday, December 12, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. – The petite elderly woman flailed desperately in the canal behind her mobile home south of Leesburg.
Delmas Zickefoose describes how he rescued his neighbor, Carol Hough, from an alligator attack on Wednesday in Leesburg, Fla. Hough, 84, lost an arm in the attack.
A neighbor drinking his morning coffee and looking out his kitchen window Wednesday couldn't believe what he was seeing. He quickly dialed 911, then jumped into the 4-foot-deep water to help the woman in distress.
Carol Hough, 84, had only one word to explain what happened to her: "Gator." Her neighbor, Delmas Zickefoose, was shocked when he realized her arm was gone below the shoulder.
"I held her," the 68-year-old Zickefoose said. "I just held her, telling her everything would be all right, that rescue was on the way."
About nine hours later, state wildlife officials trapped and killed the alligator suspected of biting off Hough's right arm. The 7½-foot-long male gator had taken bait near the canal where the attack occurred, said Lt. Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"The alligator was not at all afraid of humans," Hill said. "It didn't move when we were standing near it."
Although a necropsy found no human body parts in the gator's stomach, Hill said wildlife officials are comfortable it was the gator that bit Hough based on reports of its size, but that "it is impossible to say with 100 percent certainty."
Hough remained in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
No one knows why Hough was in the water or how long she had been in there before Zickefoose saw her. But several large gators regularly swim near their homes at Cypress Creek Mobile Home Park, which sits between lakes Harris and Denham off U.S. Highway 27.
Hough moved to Florida from Maine after her husband died. She asked for her late husband, Bob, after Zickefoose found her in the water at daybreak, around 7 a.m.
After retrieving her, he took her to a sandy shoreline near his house, wrapping his arms around her tiny frame. Hough was calm and alert, and only her single utterance, "gator," offered any clue as to what had happened.