Oldsmar firefighter Juan Carlos La Verde recently survived an attack from a 12-foot alligator on Lake Thonotosassa, and the drone footage from the incident has been released. La Verde was filming a promotional video of himself swimming while preparing for a triathlon. The drone footage shows the lake from above and La Verde swimming. Directly in front of him, the alligator motors in his direction. Then, a slight struggle, and La Verde swims back to shore.
“With the right stroke, all I felt was scales, teeth and then right there I’m like OK,” La Verde told WFTS-TV Tampa after he began his recovery. “So, what I think I did, what I felt like I did, was that I immediately tried to open its jaws because I knew I was in a gator. When I felt the teeth, I immediately knew, and then as I opened it I knew that I either turned it or it turned me, but it was confused just as I was confused, and then it just let go.”
Someone nearby saw what happened and rushed La Verde to the hospital. He was still lucid even through his horrifying injury and managed to call 911 on his own and explain what happened. He underwent a 6-hour surgery in Tampa to repair the gator’s damage to his face and skull. La Verde will have to wear a helmet to protect his injuries while he heals.
“If people want to see this any other way than a legit miracle it’s silly to think that. I shouldn’t be alive,” he said. La Verde explained that he’s usually more careful when swimming in the lake. But, he was in a hurry to film and wasn’t paying attention to his surroundings.
Florida Firefighter Admits Alligator Attack Gave Him ‘New Perspective’
La Verde told WFTS that the incident has given him a new positivity and outlook on life. He admits that he’s lucky to be alive and that he’s now gained a “new perspective.” He said, “I am perfectly fine,” adding, “I am actually even better because this gave me a new perspective, you know. And not many people get that.”
La Verde has a GoFundMe page up to help raise money for hospital bills. Currently, he’s raised $56,940 of his $80,000 goal. On August 15, according to the page, he fainted and hit his head. He has since been cleared by the hospital and is back home. “We were obviously very worried as he does not have any bone on the right side of his head for protection,” explained an update on the GoFundMe page. “They did the work up and he is finally clear. We are back at home and trying to figure out our new norm.”