Teen Lets Gator Gnaw Off His Arm So He Could Save the Rest of His Body

A Florida teen is in the hospital today after he was forced to sacrifice his forearm to prevent an ornery alligator from chewing on the rest of him.

17-year-old Kaleb Langdale of Moore Haven was swimming in the Caloosahatchee River with friends when he was allegedly attacked by the gator.

"He grabbed the gator underneath his bottom jaw, on that skin, and had pretty good control until the tail came around and slapped him in the back," Langdale's aunt LaDawn Hayes told ABC News. "At that point, his hand broke loose from the gator's jaw." Hayes said Langdale had to make a snap decision: "It's either my life or my arm, and the arm was just kind of out there."

After a struggle, Langdale managed to break loose and swim toward the riverbank to alert his friends. "He came up out of the water like daggone Superman or something, waving to us saying 'hey, my arm's gone, call an ambulance,'" said friend Matt Baker.

Langdale stopped the bleeding by covering his wound with cobwebs and applying pressure with his legs. He was rushed to the hospital while wildlife officials hunted down the 11-foot gator that took his right arm. It eventually located and killed, but the arm, still inside, was too far gone to reattach.

Despite the loss of a limb, Langdale is said to be in "good spirits." He told ABC News he was "glad it chose me" and not one of his friends, concerned they would not have made it out of a similar situation alive.

Officials are investigation the possibility that the gator was taunted, but Langdale's friends say the animal "seemed to have come out of nowhere." Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino warned that this time of year is mating season for gators, which means they are more aggressive than usual.

"Anything that makes any splash in the water or any little commotion in the water may attract them to that particular location," he told the Associated Press. However, he noted that gator attacks are extremely rare.

"We have millions of people swimming in the state's waterways and nothing happens," Pino said.

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[screengrab ABC News, video via AP]