A paramedic in central Florida had a close call with an alligator when it almost ripped his arm clean off.
Last summer, Tavares Fire Lt. Carsten Kieffer finally spoke about the incident, which could have turned out a lot worse than it did. However, Kieffer doesn’t blame the alligator. He says he was acting in self-defense.
“It was not an alligator attack. It was an alligator defending himself.”
Hunting Gone Wrong
Lt. Carsten Kieffer was accompanied by a fellow paramedic named Randy Matheny and Randy’s father. The three were out hunting for alligators, a pastime they frequently took part in.
Just after 5 p.m., the men located a large gator and were able to harpoon the monster. They were seasoned hunters and were confident in their abilities. A quality that turned out to be a mistake on Kieffer’s part.
“What happens when you do something a lot of times is you get a little too confident,” he said. “You forget that this is a dangerous animal that you’re dealing with.”
While the men were wrestling the alligator into the boat, the “perfect storm” of events happened and ended with the paramedic’s arm in the jaws of a monster gator.
“He was still fresh, and he was just able to launch himself off the bottom and get in the boat and get a hold of me, and it was just the perfect storm of things that could go wrong.”
The three were able to react quickly to the situation unfolding. They quickly worked to get the alligator on the boat and try to pry open its strong jaws.
“Randy’s dad was able to grab my belt and just hold me in the boat and make sure I didn’t get pulled in the water, and Randy was able to get a rod and put it in the gator’s mouth and pry it open.”
All to no avail. The huge reptile bit down harder on Kieffer’s arm, who says he cannot remember the attack.
“It wasn’t until we heard the bone crush and the skin rip that I grabbed my wrist, and he let go. I remember everything except for the alligator. I can’t for the life of me picture the alligator attached to my arm, even though it was, you know, 12 inches from my face!”
After the Alligator Attack
Keiffer laughs as he recalls asking the paramedics to knock him out with medicine, saying, “at that point, I just kinda done dealing with it.”
A severed arm…Yeah, I guess we wouldn’t want to deal with that either.
When the man awoke, doctors had fixed up his arm as best as they could but gave him a grim prognosis on his future as a paramedic. Keiffer knew that since he was able to feel his finger, everything was going to be okay.
“So from day one, I was like, I don’t think you’re right, doctor, I think I can do better than what you think.”
He has had to undergo numerous surgeries. After the six-hour operation in December, where doctors transferred muscles from the bottom of his arm to the top, he can now control movement in his wrist.
“Before that, my wrist was just dangling.”
Fortunately, Keiffer still works at the Tavares Fire Department and is still working toward his recovery. In addition, despite the alligator attack, he remains optimistic.
“Life is short. You never know what comes around the next corner. In my case, a 12-foot alligator that ripped my arm off. Could have been a lot worse,” he said. “I got my arm and my hand back and can still carry my kids to bed and hold their hands. It’s the little things that keep my spirits up.”
Keiffer also comments that he is done gator hunting.
Probably for the best.