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Tampa man nearly dies after being attacked by alligator in Florida

‘I thought I got hit by a propeller; it hit me so fast,’ recalled Heim. ‘It felt like a boat was going 50 mph’

Jeffrey Heim was attacked by an alligator in the Myakka River and miraculously survived.
Jeffrey Heim was attacked by an alligator in the Myakka River and miraculously survived. (Courtesy of ABC Action News Tampa Bay)

TAMPA, Fla. – If there’s something most Floridians know, it’s that a river, or any body of water in the Sunshine State, may be home to a crocodile or alligator.

Unfortunately, for one Florida man, he learned this the hard way.

According to ABC Action News, Tampa resident Jeffrey Heim decided to venture out to Myakka River in Venice, Florida on Sunday, May 30, in search of shark teeth. That is when in just mere seconds, an alligator appeared out of nowhere and bit Heim on his head and hand.

He was rushed to the hospital, resulting in a skull fracture and 34 staples.

“I thought I got hit by a propeller; it hit me so fast,” recalled Heim to ABC Action News. “It felt like a boat was going 50 mph.”

He says he’s lucky to be alive.

“Because of the bite force on those animals, he could have got me anywhere else and I would have died.”

Heim, who told the ABC affiliate he is a marine wildlife advocate who regularly collects shark teeth, says he truly should have known better. Heim has years of diving experience in Florida.

“Her environment, protecting her family,” says Heim. “That’s what those animals are bred to do, and I learned that the hard way. I’m lucky it wasn’t much worse.”

Heim was released from the hospital on Monday and his recovery will only take a few weeks. However, the incident has affected him, and he thanks God that he is alive today.

“I’ve never cried so much in my life,” Heim told ABC Action News. “And not from the pain, just from the realization of what I’ve gone through and how I was literally an inch away from death.”

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the mating season for alligators is in May and June, which is when they are more active and aggressive.


About the Author:

Nicole Lopez-Alvar is a Miami-born and raised journalist and TV personality covering South Florida and beyond for Local10.com.