Florida man nearly loses leg - and life - to alligator while hunting hogs




  • In Business
  • 2019-11-13 14:59:17Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

Saturday morning, as he lay bleeding in a desolate swamp in Florida, James Boyce prepared for the unthinkable. With his wife, Terisa, by his side, he told her he loved her and that he wouldn't change a thing about their 15-year marriage. This was it. His time was up.

But Terisa wasn't about to let her husband become gator bait.

She was determined to make sure her husband lived to tell the tale of how an alligator nearly took his leg and his life.

Boyce, 46, of Palm Beach County, survived after a 10-foot-long alligator chomped down on the back of his leg just above the knee. Boyce was able to free himself, stave off serious blood loss and get help from fellow hunters and emergency responders to wind up with little more than scores of stitches as a memento of the day he nearly died.

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Tuesday, at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach where Boyce was treated for his injuries, he shared the story of his ordeal.

The day began routine enough, Boyce said. He, his wife and son Corey, 23, entered the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area early in the morning to hunt for hogs, deer or turkey. Boyce said his son had gone one way to scout while he and Terisa went down another trail to look for a good spot.

"The trails are tight - the trees are close together - and as I went around this curve, all I felt was like a shock on the back of my leg," Boyce said. "I screamed, but then I hit the ground and felt this thing pulling me backwards."

A large alligator had grabbed him just above the knee on the back of his right leg.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, this is really happening," Boyce said. "Sometimes you're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That gator was looking for dinner, and I was it."

The gator dragged him about 5 feet as he tried not to panic. That's when he started smashing the gator in the face with the butt of his shotgun.

The gator shifted its grip but now had clamped down on his ankle. Only his extra thick snake boots kept the injury on his lower leg from being worse.

"I was about to shoot him down my leg into his mouth knowing I would probably hurt myself worse," Boyce said. "But then, he let go and was gone."

Terisa had been lagging behind until she heard his screams. As she ran to James, she realized he was in big trouble. James had already removed his belt and fastened it around his leg above the wound to help slow the blood loss. He told Terisa to take off her belt and do the same thing.

But the remote area the couple was in became a problem. Her cellphone signal was weak and kept pinging between Palm Beach County and Martin County emergency services. The walkie talkie connecting them to son Corey wasn't working, either.

Finally, her call stayed connected. Martin County fire rescue's LifeStar helicopter responded, as did the Martin County Sheriff's Office helicopter to assist. But the helicopters could not find the Boyces.

About 90 minutes after the ordeal began, James began to give up hope.

"I planned on dying," he said. Then, he fell into a dream. Terisa was not going to lose her husband this way. She fired a shot into the ground to attract attention from any hunters who might be nearby. Then she screamed.

Danny McClelland of Jupiter Farms and his family were hunting nearby. He had just heard a gunshot and a woman scream and then shortly after, heard helicopters.

Turns out, McClelland was in the right place at the right time.

"I saw the trauma hawk circling and realized something was up," McClelland said. "As I looked up, I saw the sheriff's office helicopter signaling me to go in a certain direction."

McClelland said someone in the helicopter was "hanging out and waving me on with hand signals."

As he drove his swamp buggy in that direction, he saw Terisa and James. He hopped down and quickly wrapped Boyce's leg with two long zip ties.

"I guess it was redneck ingenuity," McClelland said.

McClelland said what happened to Boyce could happen to anyone.

"It's part of what we do as a culture," McClelland said, referring to hunting and being an outdoorsman. "We take a certain amount of risk when we go out there."

McClelland helped load Boyce onto his swamp buggy. Then he took him to a marshy clearing with water shallow enough for the LifeStar helicopter to land. Boyce was alert and in good spirits when he arrived at St. Mary's, said Dr. Jorge Vega, the surgeon who treated Boyce.

"I was happy to see the tourniquet, which helped stop the bleeding," said Vega, who admitted it was the first alligator bite he has treated. "His ligaments were intact, and he did suffer a lot of blood loss, but I expect him to fully recover."

The entire situation helped bring two hunting families together. McClelland and Boyce said they have discussed hunting together one day.

Boyce said he has never been alligator hunting. But no one should be surprised if he applies for gator tags next season.

Follow Ed Killer on Twitter: @tcpalmekiller

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Florida man nearly loses leg and life to Palm Beach County alligator

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