The 17-year-old Moore Haven boy who lost half his right arm in an alligator attack Monday is recuperating today in a Fort Myers and said he's looking forward to getting back into the water.
"I've been growing up in the water all my life, and this one little accident isn't going to stop me," Kaleb Langdale told The Palm Beach Post by telephone from his Lee Memorial Hospital room. Authorities caught and killed the gator and retrieved Langdale's limb, but doctors were unable to reattach it.
Still, the teen, who was born in Loxahatchee, was in good spirits today. He described in detail the horrific attack by the 10-foot alligator in the Caloosahatchee River, just west of Lake Okeechobee.
He said he was racing two friends across the river on Monday when one of his friends spotted the alligator.
The friend yelled out to Langdale, who turned to see the gator heading toward him. He said he submerged his body beneath the water, with only his eyes above the surface, hoping the gator would lose track of him. It didn't work.
"He kept coming straight at me," Langdale said.
When the gator was about a foot in front of him, Langdale said he reached for the area of skin beneath the animal's jaw, like he'd seen on TV. When that didn't work, he kicked at the gator to push him away, but it eventually caught hold of Langdale's right arm, dragging him under the water. The gator then did what's known as a "death roll," a move in which a gator tries to rip apart its victim. Langdale felt the bones break in his arm and tried jerking the arm away, but because it was not severed, he could not swim away.
"I knew if I could break my arm off I had a chance," Langdale said. "If I couldn't break my arm off, I was dead."
With another jerk, Langdale said the arm was severed and he was able to make it to the other side of the river.
During the attack, Langdale yelled to his friends "Call an ambulance, my arm's gone," said Matt Baker, 16, who was one of the two other boys in the water.
Baker said friends on the dock called authorities while he and another friend got out of the water. They drove Langdale's truck to the other side of the river, where emergency responders were already on the scene helping Langdale.
"He wasn't crying," Baker said. "He was mainly in shock."
Langdale said when the gator bit his arm, he yelled at his friends to get out the water and not come to get him. Baker said that saved his life and the life of the other friend in the water.
"If the alligator hadn't gone after him, me and Abraham would've been dead," Baker said. "We wouldn't have known what to do."