'I felt the scales, then I felt the teeth': Fla. FF-medic survives alligator attack

With a partly crushed skull and a broken jaw, J.C. La Verde kept swimming until he reached safety


By Leila Merrill

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — J.C. La Verde, also known as J.C. Defeats, was attacked by what he believes was a 12-foot alligator while swimming in Lake Thonotossa on Aug. 3.

The Oldsmar firefighter and paramedic was shooting an instructional video for his company, Defeat X, when a gator began approaching him, WFLA reported.

"That thing was huge. That thing wasn't a little gator. It would be funny if it was a little gator," he told ABC Action News.

A friend of his captured footage of the attack through a drone.

"Later on, all he told me was he heard a scream, and then he didn't know what happened to me," the firefighter said.

La Verde said he knew what was happening.

“I felt the equivalent of a telephone pole hit my face and then because of my stroke, I felt the scales, then I felt the teeth, so I knew what I was in,” he said.

He said the alligator crushed part of his skull and broke his jaw.

“It was just one large bite,” La Verde said. “I heard my jaw snap and I just continued swimming.”

But the animal released him, and he swam to a dock.

A good Samaritan drove him to a hospital while La Verde called 911.

La Verde was in the hospital for 10 days and had a six-hour surgery. He expects to have more procedures as he recovers.

An online fundraiser has been set up to help him with expenses.

 

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