Florida Firefighter Attacked by Massive Alligator Speaks Out: ‘I Shouldn’t Be Alive’

by Chris Haney

Earlier this month, a 12-foot alligator attacked a Florida man who went for a swim in a local lake and sustained bites to his face. He was able to escape, but it took doctors performing a six-hour-long surgery to repair his skull and jaw. Now, the Florida resident named JC La Verde has spoken out about the terrifying encounter.

La Verde, who is a firefighter and paramedic for Oldsmar Fire Rescue, went for a swim in Lake Thonotosassa on August 3rd. Lake Thonotosassa sits in northeast Tampa and is the largest natural lake in Hillsborough County. Unfortunately for La Verde, it’s the perfect area for some of the state’s 1.3 million alligators that call Florida home. In fact, the reptiles can be found in all 67 counties of The Sunshine State.

Following his successful surgery, La Verde will need to wear a helmet temporarily to protect his injured skull. While speaking to local Tampa outlet WFTS recently, the firefighter admitted he “shouldn’t be alive.”

“If people want to see this any other way than a legit miracle it’s silly to think that. I shouldn’t be alive,” La Verde said to WFTS.

He also described the scene and what went through his mind as he realized he was in the jaws of an alligator.

“With the right stroke all I felt was scales, teeth and then right there I’m like okay,” La Verde told WFTS. “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.”

Alligator Attack Has Given Victim a ‘New Perspective’ on Life

A GoFundMe page set up for La Verde’s medical expenses explained more details about the incident. The firefighter owns his own business called Defeat X. The company “focuses on helping others defeat their personal struggles through healthy exercise and outdoor adventure.” While filming a promotional video for Defeat X, La Verde shot a portion of it swimming in Lake Thonotosassa. That’s when his friend filming on shore heard screams as a huge alligator attacked the firefighter.

While speaking to WFTS, La Verde explained that he’s typically much more cautious when swimming in the lake. He said he was in a rush that fateful day though and didn’t pay close enough attention to his surroundings. However, he’s thinking positively following the attack and has gained a new perspective on life.

“I am perfectly fine,” he told the outlet. “I am actually even better because this gave me a new perspective you know. And not many people get that.”

Earlier this week on Tuesday, La Verde fainted and hit his head, according to the GoFundMe page’s update. Doctors readmitted him to the hospital, but he’s since been cleared 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. They did the work up and he is finally clear. We are back at home and trying to figure out our new norm,” the GoFundMe page shared.

As of Thursday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign for La Verde has raised $53,784 of its $80,000 goal.