Woman dies after being mauled by huge alligator in Florida pond

Friday, July 23rd 2004, 7:56 pm
By: News On 6

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) _ A professional landscaper died Friday after being mauled by a 12-foot alligator that dragged her into a pond and nearly tore off one of her arms.

Janie Melsek, 54, was attacked Wednesday by the alligator as she worked on landscaping behind a home on Sanibel Island, just off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico. After the animal pulled her into the water, a neighbor and police officers engaged in a fierce ``tug-of-war'' to pull her from the reptile's jaws.

Melsek died in surgery at Lee Memorial Hospital to treat an infection caused by the reptile's vicious bites. Doctors said her body simply shut down in response to the infection.

``My mom showed more courage than fear and I could not be more proud of her,'' said Melsek's daughter, Joy Williams, 29. ``She's just absolutely amazed me and our whole community with the fight she put up.''

Police killed the 457-pound alligator, which required six men to lift it to shore.

She was the 14th person known to have been fatally attacked by a Florida alligator since record keeping began.

Florida's alligator population had once dwindled to the point that the reptile was placed on the federal list of endangered species.

They have since rebounded to perhaps a million or more across the entire state, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They can now be killed during seasonal hunts conducted by the commission.