| MIAMI (Reuters) - An alligator
attacked and killed a 12-year-old boy swimming after dark in a central
Florida river close to a spot where people often fed the reptiles, a sheriff's
deputy said on Thursday.|
Brian Jeffrey Griffin was swimming Wednesday night in the Dead River in Lake County when friends on the shore spotted several alligators and screamed for him to get out of the water.
One of the gators grabbed the boy in its jaws, dragged him under and swam away, Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Nick Pallitto said. "It was literally throwing him all over the place and thrashing him around and pulled him down," Pallitto said.
Witnesses using boats from a nearby marina tried to rescue Griffin but lost sight of him in the dark water.
He had been under water at least 20 minutes before a sheriff's deputies in a helicopter spotted him and dropped a buoy to guide the rescuers, one of whom jumped into the water and pulled the boy up onto a boat. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The children had been aware of the presence of at least one alligator during the day and had been throwing rocks at it. Griffin was swimming just after dusk, a prime feeding time, Pallitto said.
Afterward wildlife officials killed seven alligators ranging from 8 to 10 feet long and were fairly certain they got the one that killed the boy, Pallitto said.
The attack was in the cottage community of Palm Gardens near Tavares, some 40 miles northwest of Orlando. Alligators often gather near the bank where people feed them, causing them to lose their fear of humans, Pallitto said.
"People think it's really cool to feed them potato chips and what-not," he said. "When they become unfearful of humans, this is what happens."
The conditions favored an attack. "It's feeding time, it's their mating season so they're really agitated to begin with," Pallitto said. "That combination ain't good."
Florida wildlife officials have documented 325 alligator attacks on humans since they began keeping records in 1948, including 13 fatalities.
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