A representative with the St. Cloud Police Department told WFTV that James Barney Jr. was bicycling Thursday when he decided to take a dip in a restricted area of a lake in Osceola County.
What was supposed to be an innocent swim soon took a dangerous turn, however, when an enormous gator approached the boy and bit him several times. Witnesses told wildlife officials the gator was 9 feet long, and gator trapper Joseph Elsebough said it weighed between 400 and 500 pounds, WFTV reports.
Speaking from his hospital bed in the aftermath of the attack, Barney described the terrifying experience, per WOFL: “It really amazed me what happened. At first, I thought someone was just playing with me, and I didn’t know what happened. I reached down to grab it, and I felt its jaw, I felt its teeth, and I didn’t know what to do, so I immediately reacted and hit it a couple times.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Barney suffered “three superficial bites, mostly on his buttocks, and about 30 teeth marks and claw scratches on his back, stomach and legs.”
In a Facebook update Saturday, Barney’s dad said that the boy, who was hospitalized following the attack, is “doing well.”
“Today I was told to count my blessings material and non-material,” James Barney Sr. wrote on Facebook following the gator attack on his son. “Little did I know that I [could’ve] lost one of them very easily.”
“My son put up a good fight and beat a 9-foot alligator,” he continued.
Trappers are still searching for the alligator that attacked Barney, according to the Sentinel. The lake where the attack occurred has reportedly been closed off to swimmers as the search continues, and boaters have also been told to avoid the area so as to not interfere with the search effort.
Once captured, the alligator — which trappers say does not seem to have a fear of people – will be relocated, reports News 13.