Man uses screwdriver to fend off alligator that pulled him ‘to bottom’ of South Carolina river

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – A South Carolina man is recovering after he says he was attacked by an alligator while collecting fossils in the Cooper River earlier this week.

William Georgitis, of West Ashley, was diving for fossils Monday afternoon when he was attacked and dragged to the bottom of the waterway, where he says he ran out of air.

“When I surfaced, he was about 20 feet away from me and as soon as he saw me, he launched himself out of the water. I mean he was coming at me, almost hydroplaning on the top. He was so determined to get there,” Georgitis said.

A massive alligator was about to get him.

“Put my arm up defensively and he grabbed hold of it. I mean, he was huge. I don’t even know how big he was because I was just right there. He felt massive,” he recalled. “I knew his first move once he grabbed me was to roll me. So, I bear-hugged him. I wrapped my arm around his head and my legs around his neck.”

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Georgitis was then pulled underwater with little air left in his scuba tank.

“I got my screwdriver that I use on the bottom of the river, and I stabbed him in the eye, and when I did that, he shook me like a ragdoll. Threw me off of him- I grabbed ahold of him because I didn’t want him to roll again,” he said.

His arm was still in the gator’s clamped-down jaw.

“At that point, he took me to the bottom, and I could tell because my ears started popping and it got real black, and I hit the bottom with my shoulders and my neck and I could feel his weight pressing down on me,” he said.

Georgitis continued to recall his experience, “I couldn’t get up to his eye again, so I went for his gum line and tried to stab him between the teeth where the soft spots were, and that seemed to work. He shook me again, pretty hard down there, and at that point, I ran out of air.”

He was now an estimated 50 feet underwater, fighting an alligator without air.

“And so I knew that that was the end of my life at that moment,” he said.

But it wasn’t.

“I wrenched back as hard as I could trying to rip my arm off at the elbow. And I got out. I don’t know how,” he said. “I just thought that I tore it off and when I got back to the surface, it was flopping down hanging like a wet noodle. The guy in the boat dragged me. I couldn’t pull myself up.”

Photos obtained by The Post and Courier newspaper show Georgitis still in his wetsuit sitting in the boat, the white bottom turned red with blood in places, as well as a hospital photo of multiple gashes to his right arm.

Georgitis now has some advice for other divers.

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“This gator is extremely aggressive and he’s right there where everybody else dives. It’s a well-known spot and this thing is huge. He didn’t even take a second to attack me. He was on me as soon as he saw me. Whoever else is out there diving please be careful,” he said.

Georgitis said they quickly made it to the Bushy Park Boat Landing before rushing to the hospital. Fortunately, his arm is going to make it – but he may need some additional surgeries in the future.

He said he does not have insurance and is working to start a GoFundMe to help with medical bills. But at this point, he is thankful to be alive.

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