A person was killed Friday after being dragged into a holding tank by an alligator near Myrtle Beach, SC, the first such deadly attack in the state since 2020, authorities said.
Fatal alligator attacks are rare in the United States, usually occurring about once a year, but the latest was the second in less than a month. The body of a man who retrieved Frisbees from a lake in Largo, Florida, which is a habitat for alligators, was found on May 31.
During Friday’s killing, authorities responded around 11:45 a.m. to a water rescue call, the Horry County Police Department said in a statement. Rescuers “determined that an alligator had grabbed a neighbor who was near the edge of a retention pond and retreated there,” the department said in a statement.
A South Carolina Department of Natural Resources biologist and alligator removal contractor determined the animal should be “humanely euthanized on-site,” police said.
Messages left with the department were not immediately returned on Sunday. Authorities have not released the victim’s name, gender, age or other circumstances of the attack. An investigation into the death is continuing, police said.
Jason Repak, who lives in the same community as the victim, took a picture of three alligators behind his condo last month and posted it on social media.
“I couldn’t have imagined that it was probably one of those alligators that would later kill a man,” he wrote on Friday. “My prayers and my heart go out to the family as my arms tighten around my children and my dogs by these ponds.”
In an interview on Sunday, Mr Repak said it was common to see alligators walking on a road above two retention ponds. Every once in a while, he’ll see pictures in the local media of an alligator on the loose, he said.
“We’ve always considered alligators part of the community,” he said. “Everyone treats them with healthy respect. You try to stay away from the banks, and when you see them, you admire them from afar. They are part of nature.
He called Friday’s death “a tragic and abnormal accident”.
Alligators are mainly concentrated in Florida and Louisiana, but are present in several other states. In South Carolina, they are found in the state’s coastal marshes, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Fatal alligator attacks on humans are rare. According to a University of Florida 2019 Analysisvenomous injuries — largely from contact with hornets, wasps, and bees — average more than 56 deaths a year in the United States, compared to about one a year from alligator attacks.
Friday’s death was the first of an alligator attack in South Carolina since May 2020, when Cynthia Covert, 58, was dragged into a pond behind her friend’s home on Kiawah Island, near Charleston, according to La Poste and Courrier.
She saw an alligator and was fascinated by it and went to touch it, against her friend’s warning. As friends tried to wrest her from the alligator’s grasp, she calmly said, “I guess I won’t do that again,” moments before the alligator rolled over and pulled her under. water, the newspaper reported.
The victim of the May attack in Florida has been identified as Sean Thomas McGuinness. Police believe Mr McGuinness, 47, had entered the lake in John S. Taylor Park overnight. A person walking his dog discovered his body along the shore the next morning, police said.