Jeffrey Heim, 25, was bit on the head by an alligator while diving in the Myakka River on Sunday.
Jeffrey Heim, who is 25 and from Tampa, was attacked on Sunday, May 30, while searching for fossilized Megalodon shark teeth in the river in southwestern Florida—which he told NBC 2 is something he does often.
Heim, a commercial spear fisherman, said that while diving, he came “up for a breath and I felt like I got hit by a boat going 50 miles an hour. Felt like a propeller to the head and it pulled me down.”
He added that he quickly realized the pain did not come from hitting his head against a boat, explaining: “I look up and the gator’s just looking at me about 4 feet in front of me.
“Then he started coming at me. I just learned from dealing with sharks, you don’t wanna act like prey so you don’t wanna move too fast. So, I started slowly moving away.”
Heim was released from Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Monday and told WTFS in an interview afterwards that he had been bitten on his head and one of his hands. His skull was fractured and 34 staples were needed to close the wound.
Despite his injuries, Heim told NBC 2 he felt “lucky” that he was not more severely injured: “I’m lucky it didn’t death roll. I’m lucky it didn’t get an arm, or a hand, or my face, or my neck, or my leg, or literally anywhere else.”
He added that his skull was strong enough to protect him from the full power of the alligator’s teeth, explaining that “he hit me right in the perfect spot.”
Video: Florida police move alligator from garden back to pond (Reuters)
Heim added to WTFS: “Because of the bite force on those animals, he could have got me anywhere else and I would have died.”
The 25-year-old has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay his medical bills and has already raised more than $2,300 of the $6,000 goal.
In the description for the fundraiser, Heim wrote: “Any share of this link or donation would help us pay for medical costs while I’m currently not able to work until my head stops bleeding.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told NBC 2 that a licensed nuisance trapper would work to remove the gator, as is the agency’s policy following attacks on humans.
Heim blames himself for the incident, saying: “I was in its territory. I didn’t weigh the risk to the rewards. Technically it’s gator mating season, so this was probably a female protecting her eggs.”