A 9-year-old is alive after bravely battling an estimated 9-foot long, 500 pound alligator in East Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., August 7.
After jumping into the lake described by officials as a "non-swimming area," James Barney recalls feeling a sharp tug before an intense pain in his backside. "I felt its jaw. I felt its teeth," he stated during a press conference on Friday, reports the Orlando Sentinel. "I was scared. I didn't know what to do," he continued. "I had enough strength to pry open its jaws."
After repeatedly hitting the alligator, Barney was able to slip out of grip and frantically swim to shore.
Strangers came to Barney's aid to pull him out of the water, while his friend called 911 from a pier.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the child "suffered three superficial bites, mostly on his buttocks, and about 30 teeth marks and claw scratches on his back, stomach and legs. He was airlifted to Arnold Palmer [Hospital]."
A tooth was found embedded in one of Barney's wounds and was given to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help identify the alligator once trapped. However, Barney wants it as a souvenir.
"We will find a way to make sure that boy gets to keep that gator tooth. You can quote me on that," Nick Wiley, FWC executive director, tells the Orlando Sentinel.