Twenty-five-year-old Jeffrey Heim says he's lucky to be alive after an alligator attack in the Myakka River.
What You Need To Know
- Jeffrey Heim injured but is doing OK after May 31 attack
- He was diving for shark teeth in the Myakka River
- "I thought I was going to die right there," he said
- More Manatee County headlines
"He got me right here," said Heim as he rubbed his head that now has more than 30 staples.
"And then right here, I’m kinda swollen and there’s a puncture wound on the top and the bottom,” as he showed Spectrum News his right hand.
"I get bit and pulled and what felt like a boat hitting me with its full force,” he said of the May 31 incident. "I thought I was going to die right there.”
Heim says he was doing what he loves, diving for shark teeth.
"These are sustainable, they’re fossils, 5-10 million years old and they help a good cause,” said Heim.
From conservation to career, the teeth have many meanings to Heim, who has engaged with gators in the past.
"Just being in the presence of a wild animal like that is something I enjoyed," said Heim. "But now, I learned a lot more, what it feels to be inside their mouths.”
Heim recorded part of his ambulance transport to the hospital.
"Hey guys, just want to let you know I’m doing alright," Heim said from the emergency vehicle. "Just really wanted a megalodon tooth. I’m gonna be OK.”
A few days later, Heim says he's still OK. He wanted those shark teeth to add to his growing collection. He uses them to make jewelry for his small business.
Heim says he'll still dive.
"It was a humbling experience," said Heim. "Respect for wild animal and realizing I’m not invincible."
He says he'll just go about it differently.
"I won’t stop but I’m just going to change the way I do it, maybe not so much the rivers, especially not during mating season," said Heim.
FWC reminds there is a healthy population of 1.3 million alligators of all different sizes in the state of Florida. Gators are more active in warmer months and May and June are months for mating.
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Never feed an alligator
- Always give a gator space
- If you are attacked, make as much noise and resist as much as possible
- Go for sensitive areas; eyes
- Nuisance Alligator Hotline: 866- FWC- GATOR ( 866-392-4286 )
Heim has set up an account to help with pay for medical expenses, as he says he cannot work with his injuries. You can learn more about it here.
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