Captain loses hand and runs afoul of Florida law


It's one of those stranger-than-fiction stories that could only happen in the Everglades.

In addition to having his hand bitten off by an alligator, an airboat tour guide is being criminally investigated.

That’s according to The Naples News, which reported last week that several families, including young children, witnessed the incident.

Capt. Wallace “Wally” Weatherholt of Capt. Doug’s Everglades Tours reportedly was feeding fish to an alligator to give tourists on the boat a photo opportunity.

Feeding alligators is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.

Wildlife officials tracked down the animal, euthanized it and removed the hand from its stomach, but doctors were unable to reattach it, according to the newspaper.

Judy Chroniak-Hatt, who was on the boat with two other women and two young children, told NBC-2 that Weatherholt was hanging a fish over the side of the boat and the alligator jumped up and grabbed it, then went back into the water.

The gator jumped up again, getting its two front feet inside the boat, Chroniak-Hatt told the TV station. She said she thought the reptile was going to tip the boat.

She said Weatherholt lost his hand when he was patting the water, trying to get the alligator to come up again.

"I was sitting there in the seat thinking, is this thing really biting him or is he playing a game?" Chroniak-Hatt told NBC-2.

Captain Doug's manager Glenn Smith said he spoke with the family after the attack to make sure they were all right. None of the passengers were injured, although Smith said some were shaken up.

Click here for the full report.