EVERGLADES CITY, Fla - A tourist on the airboat Tuesday tells WINK News the airboat captain was holding a fish when an alligator bit off his hand.
FWC officials would not confirm that Captain Wally Weahterholt of Captain Doug's Airboat Tours was feeding the gator, but Brenda Lee, a tourist from Indiana, says she caught it all on camera.
"One of my shots does show his hand in the gators mouth with food and you can see the fish," says Lee.
Investigators confiscated her camera when they got back to the dock. Lee was on the airboat with her two sons, her mother, aunt and uncle. Lee describes the terrifying moments leading up to the alligator attack that took the left hand of Captain Wally.
"He was splashing water and throwing fish to the alligator to get it to come up and kind of put on a little show," says Lee.
Brenda and her two sons were sitting in the front of the airboat, never expecting to see what would happen next.
"He went to throw the fish a second time and that's when the gator jumped up and grabbed his arm," says Lee.
Just moments after the attack an employee at Captain Doug's called 911. FWC officials were able to capture and dissect the gator, to retreive Captain Wally's hand, but doctors were unable to reattach it.
Meanwhile, Brenda and her family are left with a lasting memory of an airboat ride they'll never forget.
"We all, I think, had horrible nightmares and some horrible visions of them replaying the incident, but we certainly didn't expect anything like this," says Lee. "We have all decided that is our last airboat ride."
FWC officials say it is illeglal to feed, touch and harass alligators, but despite that they get tips on a regular basis of airboat captains feeding, touching and harassing gators. FWC says since January of 2011 they only have 19 reported citations.
WINK News asked why that number is so low. They say many times it's because tourists are the ones reporting the information and sending in pictures and it's very difficult to get those tourists to testify.