This is the incredible moment a firefighter fought off a 12-foot alligator that was attacking him in a Florida lake.
JC La Verde was training for a triathlon at Lake Thonotosassa, just outside of Tampa, Florida, when he was mauled by the 12-foot alligator while swimming on August 3.
Horrifying drone footage captured the moments before La Verde was attacked by the monstrous reptile as it headed straight for the swimmer in the murky green lake.
The triathlete, formerly a member of the United States Air Force Pararescue team, threw himself into action and began fighting off the beast.
Of his traumatic experience, which left him without the right side of his skull, La Verde told ABC, “With the right punch, all I felt was scales, teeth.
“What I think I did – how I felt – was I immediately tried to open his jaws.”
“When I felt the teeth, I knew it immediately. When I opened it, I know I either turned it over or it turned me over, but it was confused, just as I was – and then it just let go.’
JC La Verde was swimming in Lake Thonotosassa — outside of Tampa — on Aug. 3 when he was attacked by an alligator. Horrific drone footage shows the moments before La Verde was attacked, as the reptile rapidly approached it
La Verde, who competes in outdoor triathlon races, was preparing for an upcoming event when he was struck by the alligator. A drone planning to film footage to promote the race captured the tragic scene
La Verde quickly swam ashore, where he then dialed 911. A nearby bystander helped take the swimmer to the hospital, where he immediately underwent six-hour surgery to repair damage to his skull and face
La Verde, a former member of the United States Air Force Pararescue Team, acted immediately when he felt the reptile brush against him. He was quick to open the alligator’s mouth wide before they both fell over and the reptile took off
La Verde has his own outdoor racing company, Defeat X. He was filming a promotional video for the company’s next big race when the attack took place. His extensive background in emergency medical services helped him escape the alligator’s deadly grip
La Verde was able to quickly escape and swim ashore to ask the Hillsborough County Police Department for help. A passer-by drove him to the hospital.
The firefighter suffered head and facial injuries – including a brain injury – which were treated immediately and underwent a six-hour surgery to “repair and reconstruct the damage to his skull and jaw”.
La Verde has no bones on the right side of his head and his jaw will remain almost closed for the next few weeks. He was discharged from the hospital on August 12 but will have to undergo another operation in the future.
“If you want to see this in any other way than an actual miracle, that’s stupid of you,” La Verde told ABC Action News.
“The thing was huge. It wasn’t a small alligator. It would be funny if it was a little alligator.”
In an interview with ABC Action News, La Verde emotionally recalled the attack and how he managed to get out alive. Trauma to the swimmer’s face and skull are visible. The La Verde pine is temporarily closed for the next few weeks
PICTURED: La Verde on August 15 as he was discharged from hospital for the second time – after being discharged on August 12. La Verde resumed a few days later when he hit his head and experienced an “episode of syncopation.”
La Verde remembers its survival as a “miracle”. “The thing was huge. It wasn’t a small alligator. It would be fun if it was a little alligator,’ he said
The footage was captured by a friend of La Verde’s who was filming a promotional video for swim company Defeat X. La Verde sets up and participates in several outdoor races, including triathlons.
“When I woke up that day, all I could think about was promoting our adventure race. I wanted to make the video, I wanted to popularize it, I had a plan, a plan punctuated by 12 minutes of prehistoric rage,” La Verde said in the caption of the Defeat X video posted online.
“And I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but when that alligator had me in his mouth when he interrupted my plan for the day, I was upset in the back of my mind.
“Because it got in the way of my job. That’s how hard I pursue the things I believe in.”
He continued: “But then she let go of me and I swam. I swam harder than I’ve ever swum before, but in a new direction because the plan had changed. Sometimes in life our plans change. And when they do, we just have to swim harder than ever.”
La Verde made a video thanking everyone for the support he received throughout his journey. The video was posted by his wife Christine. A GoFundMe account was created to support La Verde with $50,000 previously raised on August 18th
The swimmer wore an eye patch after sustaining serious injuries to his face and head. He will have to undergo another operation in the near future
The triathlete was released from hospital on August 12 – only to be hospitalized a few days later when he hit his head and experienced an “episode of syncopation”.
“Hi, I get to leave the hospital today and I’m pretty excited,” La Verde said in a video uploaded by his wife, Christine.
“I think I’ve already made a video thanking everyone for their thoughts and prayers, so if I didn’t because I forgot – thank you – from the bottom of my heart. I love you all.’
He continued, “Beat X and be the best version of yourself at all times. Love you all. Goodbye.’
A GoFundMe account was set up to help La Verne and his wife following the devastating attack. More than $50,000 was raised from a goal of $80,000.
La Verde and his wife Christine pose while gliding on a lake before the tragedy. Christine has posted several messages of support for her husband on social media
A GoFundMe has been set up to help La Verne and his wife in the wake of the tragedy. As of August 18, more than $50,000 had been raised
Alligators were on the hunt this month when an elderly South Carolina woman was killed by one in the gated community where she lived.
Nancy Becker, 88, was spotted near an alligator that appeared to be “standing guard” on August 15 at 11:15 a.m. at Sun City Hilton Head, a gated-adult town north of Savannah, South Carolina.
The death is the fourth confirmed fatal alligator attack in the United States this year and the second in South Carolina.
Authorities said the Sun City resident was gardening near the pond Monday morning when she slipped into the water. She couldn’t get out in time before the alligator struck.
The alligator, identified as a 9-foot-8-inch male, was eventually captured from the pond and killed Monday afternoon.
Victim Nancy Becker, 88, lived in Sun City Hilton Head, an adult-only gated community north of Savannah, South Carolina
Sun City Hilton Head is a sprawling community of over 16,000 active elderly residents, with estimates that there are over 200 ponds and lagoons in the community