An 85-year-old woman who was walking her dog by a pond near her home in Fort Pierce, Fla., was killed when an alligator dragged her into the water on Monday, the authorities said.
Witnesses called 911 when they saw the 10-foot alligator grab the woman, Gloria Serge, after it went after her small dog, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement.
Ms. Serge died as a result of the encounter, the commission said. The dog was unharmed. A trapper captured and killed the alligator, the commission said.
Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida, the commission said, although this was at least the third fatal encounter in the past year.
In July 2022, an 80-year-old woman was killed by two alligators after she fell into a pond near her house in Englewood, Fla., the authorities said. And in May 2022, the authorities found the body of a 47-year-old man who had been retrieving Frisbees from a lake in Largo, Fla. He was believed to have been the first person killed by an alligator in Florida since 2019.
In the latest episode, a neighbor, Carol Thomas, told CBS12.com that she had looked up after hearing a commotion and saw the alligator grab Ms. Serge by the leg and pull her into a retention pond at Spanish Lakes Fairways, a community in Fort Pierce for residents 55 and older.
When Ms. Serge came up for air, Ms. Thomas said, she yelled at her to swim to an overturned paddle boat.
“She said, ‘I can’t. The gator has me!’” Ms. Thomas told the station.
Ms. Thomas said she grabbed a long pole used to hang outdoor plants, and hoped to strike the alligator on the snout or push it off Ms. Serge. But Ms. Serge was no longer visible in the pond.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Ms. Thomas told CBS12.com. “Just kind of haunted by that, you know. I don’t know what else I could’ve done.”
Carol Volpini, a Spanish Lakes resident, said in an interview on Tuesday that Ms. Serge was a “very sweet person” who enjoyed playing bocce with her husband, Charlie, who had been in charge of bocce at Spanish Lakes Fairways before he died several years ago.
“It’s devastating,” Ms. Volpini said. “She was a wonderful person, and we loved her dearly.”
Ms. Volpini’s husband, Frank Volpini, said that Ms. Serge was also active in the community’s New Jersey club, for former residents of the state.
“They were both very active here,” Mr. Volpini said of Charlie and Gloria Serge. “Everybody knows Charlie. Everybody knows Gloria. They help people — just super nice people. It’s a super sad situation.”
Mr. Volpini said that he occasionally saw “small alligators” in the ponds and pipes around Spanish Lakes Fairways but nothing like the 10-foot alligator that was shown on the local news as it was trapped and wrangled into the back of a truck after its fatal encounter with Ms. Serge.
“It’s a monster,” he said.
Florida is home to an estimated 1.3 million alligators of all sizes. The animals are known as “opportunistic feeders” that tend to pursue prey they can easily overpower, the commission said.
From 1948 to 2021, the state recorded 442 “unprovoked bite incidents” involving alligators, 26 of which were fatal, the commission said.
Over the last 10 years, Florida has averaged eight unprovoked bites per year that are serious enough to require professional medical treatment, the commission said.
The commission calculated that the likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured by an alligator is roughly only 1 in 3.1 million.
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