An animal handler at a Utah reptile centre came close to losing a hand after being attacked by an alligator during a children’s party.
The alligator yanked the handler into an enclosure during a presentation at Scales & Tails in Salt Lake City.
Footage filmed by a guest at the party shows the reptile wrestling with the keeper’s hand and whipping around as she struggled to break free.
A visitor, Donnie Wiseman, yelled for help and then jumped into the water, climbing onto the top of the reptile.
Mr Wiseman yelled “we’ve got trouble in here” before the handler gave him and another guest, Todd Christopher, instructions to help her escape from the vice grip.
Children looked on before being ushered away by another guest.
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Mr Wiseman stayed on top of the reptile until after the handler was free and Mr Christopher’s wife, who has a background in nursing, performed first aid until emergency crews arrived.
The handler underwent surgery after the incident on Saturday and is “doing well” according to Scales & Tails.
Shane Richins, the company’s owner, said that the handler was opening the enclosure to feed the alligator as usual, but the reptile “got a little extra spunky.”
He said the centre normally has a strict policy for a second handler to be nearby when employees are working with the alligators but that hasn’t been enforced in recent years if the worker isn’t planning to enter the enclosure, he said.
“We still enforce it strictly whenever somebody gets in with the gator but, of course, going forward, we will be back to strictly enforcing it with any interactions with the gator for that very reason,” Mr Richins said.
The business thanked Mr Wiseman and Mr Christopher for their help in a Facebook post.
“Their help, combined with the training of our staff member, probably saved her life and her limbs,” they said.