The body of Nancy Becker was recovered from the pond just after noon Monday in a pond inside Sun City Hilton Head, a gated adult community in the Palmetto State. Her death is the fourth of the year in the U.S. and the second in South Carolina.
“The alligator was basically holding her hostage, I guess — I don’t know what the appropriate term would be,” Maj. Angela Viens, a Beaufort County sheriff’s spokeswoman, said in an interview, reported NBC News. “It was guarding her and did not want people close by.”
Police said Becker had been gardening near the pond when she slipped into the water. She was unable to scramble to safety before the lurking creature moved in.
Agents from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources caught and killed the 9-foot, 8-inch male beast Monday afternoon, according to authorities.
Sun City Hilton Head is a Del Webb adult community of over 16,000 residents. Viens said there are over 200 ponds and lagoons in the community.
Another South Carolina resident was killed by an alligator in a private golf community near Myrtle Beach on June 24, according to Horry County police.
The other two gator fatalities this year occurred in Florida. Sean McGuinness, 47, was killed on May 31 in Largo. Authorities believe he was hunting for UFOs. His body was recovered missing three limbs.
Rose Wiegand was killed last month when she fell into a pond near the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club in Englewood.
Some victims managed to survive. In an interview with WRAL, Samuel Ray described a harrowing brush with death on June 22.
“It was about a foot away from the water,” said Ray, who was playing catch near a Florida pond. “And then as soon as I put my hand on the ball, I bent over and picked it up. That’s when I saw the gator’s eye.”
“It lunged out, and it was so fast, it was like a lightning strike,” he said.
As the alligator chomped on his hand, Ray punched it with his free fist until it let go. He lost blood and suffered nerve damage, but after three surgeries, he was able to keep the hand, he said.
Another Florida man, Ray Schott, told WRAL he was attacked by a gator when he stepped out of his motel room in Northport to smoke a cigarette. The 49-year-old man said the animal attacked him so quickly that he thought it was a dog at first.
“It was like a grrrrr, a rumble, a deep deep rumble,” said Schott, who has since recovered. “I thought it was a pitbull, like a really upset pitbull.”