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Gator handler Jeff Quattrocchi talks about attack

3:05 PM, May 11, 2010   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- It's the chomp heard around the world.

Less than 24 hours after an eight-foot alligator latched onto handler Jeff Quattrocchi's arm, video capturing the attack went viral.

Photo Gallery: Pictures of the alligator attack
More Pictures: Jeff Quattrochi at 10 Connects

Quattrocchi, otherwise known as the "Swamp Master" was performing in front of a crowd at the Cotee River Seafood Festival on Sunday when, he admits, he made a mistake.

"As I was jumping on his back, he made a move on me and met me halfway," Quattrocchi told 10 Connects moments after his release from Bayfront Medical Center. "I just made a mistake."

Numerous staples and stitches now cover his arm where the gator tore through his flesh.

Not bad when you consider what could have happened.

"Basically, in that situation, there's not anything you can do except stay calm and hope. I'm very blessed and lucky he didn't take my arm off, but that's the reality of it. I didn't do anything to save my arm. I didn't do anything spectacular. I just kind of maintained and let what happened, happen."

He says fighting against the gator would have only made the situation worse.

His terrified screams are heard on the video as the crowd looked on, not knowing whether it was part of the show or for real.

Seconds after clamping down on its handler's arm, the gator let go.

But, Quattrocchi's battle wasn't over yet.

Even through the excruciating pain, Quattrocchi managed to secure the gator before tending to his wounds.

"The important thing is to stay cool and don't panic," he said.

Quattrocchi is no rookie when it comes to gator wrestling. He's performed thousands of shows during his 17-year career as a gator handler. He got his start at Sunken Gardens, where he saw his first show.

He's also no stranger to gator bites. This most recent attack marks his 13th, and by far the worst, bite.

He tells 10 Connects he's come up with a name for each of those 12 first gators that managed to get a taste of him, and now he's trying to come up with a name for the 13th biter.

While many people think he's crazy, Quattrocchi has a passion for his seemingly strange job title.

Quattrocchi says he usually only uses wild gators that have just been captured because it keeps the shows real and it's for his own line of protection, because the gators start to get smart on what's happening after a few shows.

The gator involved in Sunday's attack has only been in five shows.

He says he owns about 100 gators, which he keeps on his property in the Orlando area.

Quattrocchi tells us he usually gets his gators from gator farms that capture the reptiles. Instead of facing certain death at the farm, he says he lets them live out their lives on his property.

Poll: Should wild animals be in captivity?

Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects

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