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Alligator Chomps Snorkeler

Associated Press, 10/06/97 06:13

OCALA, Fla. (AP) - James Morrow has been where few have been and ever want to be - underwater in the jaws of a hungry alligator.

The 11-foot animal chomped down on Morrow as was snorkeling in Juniper Springs during a canoe trip a week ago. The force of the jaws punctured his chest and collapsed one of his lungs; dents in his head are still visible, as are teeth marks on his neck.

Morrow, 35, had been in the waist-deep water for less than a minute when he came face-to-face with the alligator.

``I saw the head coming toward me, then I saw its mouth open,'' he said. ``Next thing I knew my head was inside the gator's mouth. He started shaking me like a rag doll. He just kept shaking me from side to side, shaking and shaking.''

All he could do was punch the animal in the throat.

``I think my mask saved me,'' he said. ``If I hadn't had it on, he could have put one of my eyes out or punctured my jugular.''

He estimates he was underwater for 20 to 30 seconds before the reptile released him. Friends pulled him out and rushed him to a hospital.

The alligator, estimated to be between 35 and 40 years old, was killed by trappers last Tuesday.

``I think my head was so far down in his mouth that I touched his taste buds,'' Morrow said. ``When he tasted me, I think that's why he let me go.''

© Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company

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