GENEVA, Fla. - A Seminole County teenager survived a frightening alligator encounter in which witnesses said the gator had the 17-year-old's head in its jaws Monday.
"We were both swinging off the rope swings, and then me and him started floating down the river," said witness Taylor Rizza.
Rizza said Monday was a start to a common afternoon for the teens at a swimming hole in the Little Big Econ State Forest.
But Rizza's friend, 17-year-old Andrew Hudson, thought he kicked a log in the water, but he was mistaken.
"He took me under. I started swinging, I felt his body on me and hit him with my elbow a couple of times," Hudson said Tuesday.
"It was it a big gator," said witness Mark O'Shea.
"Did you see the size of it?" a WFTV reporter asked.
"Nine to 10 feet," said O' Shea. "Just came from behind and jerked him under. He went under and started freaking out, and I saw him come halfway up to the shore. He had blood from the top of his head all the way down and I told him to take his shorts off, put them on top of his head to stop the bleeding."
"He came up behind me and clamped, and when he took me under I felt him, kind of right here the soft art of his belly, and I started swinging and he let go," Hudson said.
Hudson swam across the river for the shore, but he was badly injured.
O'Shea said he ran for help at a forestry office about a half-mile away.
"They looked at me like I was crazy. I'm like, 'My friend really got bit by an alligator,'" said O'Shea.
Medics at the scene bandaged Hudson's head.
The gator may have only let go after Hudson fought back.
"He kicked and started punching the gator. That's what he told me [happened] when he was under the water," said O'Shea.
Hudson, alert and talking with a bandage around his head, was wheeled into South Seminole Hospital by emergency crews.
Doctors treated several puncture wounds on his head with 15 staples and 22 stitches, officials said.
Trappers are taking action and hunting for the gator, officials said, after an attack that could have been fatal.
"I could have been a lot worse than what it was," O'Shea said. "He has some luck on him."
Hudson was in shock because he and his friends had spent years coming to that part of the Econ.
"I have been going there since middle school, never any problems. It's fun. I have never heard of anybody having problems out there," Hudson said.
The Division of Forestry has closed the swimming area.
Only Eyewitness News went with Hudson to the river where a 9- to 10-foot gator clamped onto his head just one day ago.
Florida Fish and Wildlife said it had set traps for the gator and plan to see if they caught the reptile responsible for Hudson's injuries.
According to Hudson, the gator is a regular to the Little Big Econ State Forest.
"I've seen that one, I seen him a couple weeks ago when I was there and he's usually around the same area where it happened," Hudson said.
Hudson said he and his friends always recognize the gator because of its size, an estimated 9-10 feet, with teeth that put around 20 stitches and more than 10 staples in his head, plus more stitches in the 17-year-old's back.