Gator Took His Arm, Then He Got Lost for 3 Days

Eric Merda of Florida lived to tell the tale
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2022 11:40 AM CDT
He Got Lost in Swamp 3 Days— After the Gator Took His Arm
Stock photo.   (Getty/Cindy Larson)

It's one thing to get lost in a Florida swamp for three days before finding your way out. It's another for that to happen after an alligator has bitten your arm off. All of the above happened to 43-year-old Eric Merda of Sarasota, reports the Herald-Tribune. In July, Merda took a detour into the Manatee Fish Camp after finishing a sprinkler maintenance job nearby. The problem is he got lost on a hike, and he'd left his cellphone in his truck. When he came across Lake Manatee after a few hours, desperate and cut to pieces by thorns, he decided to swim across rather than walk around, figuring it would make his escape faster. And, yes, he knew it was a risky idea.

"That's gatorland, man," he tells the Washington Post. "Everybody knows that around here." But, he added, "I felt like I was going to die as it was." When he was in the middle of the lake, an alligator did indeed attack. "She drugged me under, three times," Merda tells Local 12. "She's already got my arm, so when we came up the third time, she finally did a death roll and took off with my arm—bones poking out, muscles." Merda then made it to shore—in agony and still hopelessly lost.

"I mean, I didn't stop screaming," he says, per the Post. "The whole three days—screaming." Merda followed power lines and eventually found himself at a barbed wire fence, where he spotted a human on the other side who summoned help. His family has set up a GoFundMe to defray medical bills as Merda ponders his experience and next steps. One possibility is a career as a motivational speaker, he tells the Herald-Tribune: "I had to fight my way out of that place, and I'm going to fight my way through the rest of this life." (More alligator stories.)

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