Diver bitten by gator while retrieving golf balls in Boynton Beach

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Posted by on April 26, 2006 at 11:10:23:

By Chrystian Tejedor

BOYNTON BEACH -- A 7-foot-long alligator on Tuesday bit a 43-year-old diver retrieving golf balls in a lake at a golf course, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Stephen Martinez, of Coral Springs, was taken to JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, where he was treated for the bite on his left hand.

``It's serious, but certainly not life-threatening,'' said Palm Beach County sheriff's Lt. Rolando Silva.

Martinez was hired by the city to retrieve golf balls from a lake at the Lakes of Boynton Beach golf course, at 8020 Jog Road, when the gator bit him about 1 p.m.

He was was in murky water in the lake when a group of golfers heard him yell for help, said course manager Dan Hager.

The alligator apparently bit Martinez's air tank and tried to pull him under the water. Martinez grabbed a utility knife strapped to his dive suit and tried to stab the animal. That's when it bit his arm, Hager said.

Officials were not sure on Tuesday if the gator was startled or if it was protecting a nest.

Later, Martinez said he was lucky.

"He started pulling me under," he said. "As I tried to make it to the side, he locked onto my arm. He started twisting, and luckily, I kicked him" and got free.

A trapper who was called to the golf course nabbed the 7-foot gator, which was destroyed because it was considered a "nuisance alligator," said Dani Moschella, an FWCC spokeswoman.

Alligators are considered to be a nuisance typically when they lose their fear of humans and may see people as a source of food.

Alligator attacks are unusual in Palm Beach County, Moschella said. There have been only 16 recorded in the county since 1948. One attack in 1993 resulted in a death.

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