COPELAND, Fla. - The gator suspected of pulling a 90-year-old Copeland woman into a canal, and taking one of her legs, has been caught. It was still alive, even with a bullet though it's head! The man responsible for the shot talks exclusively with WINK News about coming to Margaret Webb's rescue.
On just about any given day you can find Everglades native Dwain Daniels, III perched on an airboat, entertaining tourists at Wooten's Everglades Airboat Tours. However, last Wednesday Daniels took a detour from his normal routine.
"I was killing time until 2 o'clock. I just so happened to come up here and work and say hello to everybody. One of the captains asked me to pick him up lunch and bring it back to him," the 30-year-old explains.
Daniels did just that, also spending some time to eat himself. Then, instead of going to Naples like he normally would, he took State Road 29 to make a trip to Port Charlotte. But, when he passed Margaret Webb's house something looked odd.
"The thing about Ms. Webb's yard is everything's in order. Every time I go by everything's in the same spot it was yesterday. I looked over that way and I'd seen something that struck me odd, a splash, and I wasn't quite sure what it was."
Daniels quickly turned his truck around.
"When I got a glimpse of what it was, that's when I kind of freaked out."
An eight foot alligator had clenched onto 90-year-old Margaret Webb's body, and tried dragging her into the canal. She hung onto branches fighting for her life.
"When I went over the bridge with my truck, because it's a wooded bridge, I don't know if the vibration from the truck hitting the bridge startled the gator, because the gator was easing back."
No one knows for how long, but somehow the great grandmother managed to hold the tree until Daniels arrived.
"She was holding on. I'm telling you right now, when I pulled her to the bank she still didn't let go of that limb. I couldn't imagine the pain she was going through, and the fear. And I'll tell you what she was doing, she wasn't saying anything but help me Jesus. Nothing else was on her mind," Daniels recalls.
He pulled her from the canal, but the gator had taken a bite out of one leg, and tore off part of the other one.
"I was at that time sick to my stomach, nervous, scared. It was gruesome. It wasn't something that I'd want to see again, I promise you.”
Webb stayed coherent; she even said something that managed to calm Daniels’ nerves for just a moment.
"She looked at me, and I kind of wanted to have a smile on my face, she said the gator got me. Which, I was aware of that."
At just that moment, one of Webb's sons pulled in the yard.
"He got underneath her feet, and I got underneath her neck and shoulders, and we picked her up and carried her."
Webb was taken to Lee Memorial, where she had surgery to remove her left leg. She's currently in serious condition. Friends and family say her fight to survive is not alone, just like when she was holding onto that branch.
"Ms. Webb wasn't the only one in that water that day, I can promise you. There was a strong will and the grace of God, I'm telling you," Daniels tells WINK News.
He cringes at the idea people have now dubbed him a hero.
"I think it's kind of ridiculous to be honest with you. Anybody that would have seen it, I guarantee you would have done the same thing I did."
On any other day he wouldn’t have been near Webb's home at the time of the incident, something Daniels doesn't like to think about.
"I ain't taking no credit. You can thank the good Lord upstairs for that. She'll be alright. It's that man upstairs. There's a reason why she's still here today. He ain't ready to have her yet."
As for the gator, Daniels shot it with a gun he happened to have in his truck that day to give to a family member as a gift. The gator found this morning is believed to be the once Florida Fish and Wildlife was looking for, and will be euthanized.