Authorities shoot at alligator to keep divers safe during water mission

We learned divers who searched for the driver of a truck that went into a retention pond off I-75 in Lee County Monday swam with an alligator, and a law enforcement officer had to shoot at it to keep them safe.

”I knew he was following the alligator around with his rifle at the time,” said Brian Tansey, who lead the dive operations with Iona McGregor Fire District. “I did not expect him to fire at the time.”

Search and rescue divers told us alligators are almost always in the water with them during these types of calls. And a fellow a first responder was on the lookout Monday night, as the crews searched for a person, who was later found at a hospital.

”Their visibility was zero last night,” Tansey said.

Tansey is no stranger to murky water and the dangers that come with it. He saw the gator lurking around divers with Lee County Sheriff’s Office, as they tried to pull the truck out of the water.

“He kept his distant for a while. He moved in and got a little closer, and the sheriff’s office fired a warning shot,” Tansey said. “He wasn’t too big, maybe like four or five feet,” said.

Juan Miguel Jarquin, 51, was identified as the driver in the crash and faces charges for Careless Driving and Operating Without a Drivers License.

Iona McGregor Fire District, Florida Highway Patrol, Cape Coral Fire Department, Estero Fire Department, Lee County EMS, Lee County Sheriff’s Office and San Carlos Park Fire Department all had crews respond to the scene during the search for Jarquin and the removal of the truck.

Tansey said fuel spills, sharp objects and environmental conditions can make underwater search operations even more risky. But teamwork allowed for a safe operation.

”Everybody did a great job, everybody was safe, no injuries,” Tansey said. “Always a great day.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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