Alligator Attack South Carolina Woman Survived Thanks to Neighbor With Shovel Is 2nd of Its Kind in 3 Years

Stock image of an alligator swimming in lake.
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The alligator attacked the woman in South Carolina while she was out walking her dog in an encounter similar to the fatal attack Cassandra Cline suffered, also on Hilton Head Island.

The South Carolina woman rescued by her neighbor as she was being attacked by an alligator is the second woman to have been attacked in such a manner on Hilton Head Island in only three years, according to authorities. 

Cassandra Cline was killed by an alligator in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island on Aug. 20, 2018. 

Like the woman who was attacked last week, Cline, 45, was walking her dog when she encountered the gator near the 13th hole on the Sea Pines Plantation community golf course.

The alligator tried to attack the dog, but Cline held firm on its leash and a tug-of-war ensued, ABC News reported.

Cline was dragged into the water, where she continued to struggle with the gator, according to a 911 call released by local authorities. 

“She’s in the water right now!” the 911 caller said. The caller, who said he could hear Cline screaming but was on the other side of the pond, said another person had entered the water to try to help her.

“I mean, what do you do?” the caller asked, according to WTOC-TV. “Do you jump in the water? I don’t know.”

Emergency responders pulled Cline from the water, but she died at the scene. It appeared Cline had put up a considerable fight, as her arms and hands suffered notable injury during the attack, a police report obtained by WTOC-TV said.

A mother and kindergarten teacher from New York, Cline and her husband owned a home in the gated community and planned to retire there, her family told ABC News. 

She was remembered for her dedication to her students and loving nature, her classroom considered “a celebration of the children’s work.” “She made her classroom a home for everyone,” Dr. Suzanne McLeod, superintendent of New York’s Union-Endicott Central School District, told The Island Packet.

Cline’s dog was not harmed in the incident. 

Prior to Cline's death, there had been only one other reported death thought to have involved an alligator in South Carolina’s recorded history, but the circumstances surrounding that death were not clear.

Bonnie Walker was found dead in a retention pond behind her nursing home in 2016. The 90-year-old woman was believed to have wandered away, and there were no witnesses who saw how she ended up in the water. Walker had been severely bitten, but officials could not say if she had been attacked by an alligator before or after she went into the pond. Investigators at the time said they believed she may have fallen down a steep embankment and her landing in the water attracted an alligator’s attention. 

And in 2020, a South Carolina woman was killed by an alligator on Kiawah Island after she tried to pet and take photos of it, according to reports.

A witness told authorities at the time that Cynthia Covert, 58, arrived at her house, but she wasn’t “acting like herself,” according to WCBD. The witness added that Covert was more talkative and relaxed than usual and she’d shown up to the witness’ house with a glass of wine. 

Covert was doing her nails on the front porch of the witness' home when she spotted the alligator, according to police. The witness and her husband reportedly warned Covert about going down to look at the alligator, which was inside a nearby pond. They also explained to Covert they’d seen the same reptile grab a deer from the same spot days earlier, WBCD reported. 

The woman said Covert said she didn’t “look like a deer” as she stood about "four feet from the edge" of the water before the alligator bit down on her leg and dragged her in, People reported.

In a very calm voice as Covert was waist deep in the water, she said, “I guess I won’t do this again,” witnesses told police.

The witness and her husband tried to fend off the alligator with shovels, to no avail. They also threw out a rope to Covert, but the alligator then took her under and she dropped it. 

Later, when authorities found Covert’s body, she had “severe wounds to her leg.” Her cause of death was determined as drowning. The alligator was later shot dead by authorities. 

In last week's incident, the woman who was attacked was, like Cline, out walking her dog. She was walking near a lagoon at 8 a.m. on Hilton Head Island on Thursday when the 8-foot alligator attacked, police said. A female neighbor saw the woman in the water and tried to help pull her out but then realized an alligator had latched onto her lower legs, according to a news release.

That’s when the woman's husband got a shovel and jumped into the water to beat the alligator with it repeatedly until it let the woman go, WTOC-TV reported.

"This is an unfortunate incident," said Joheida Fister, Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue Deputy Chief. "We advise residents to be aware of their surroundings, especially if they are taking walks with small pets near lagoons that are habitats for alligators."

The alligator will be euthanized and checked to see if it had been previously fed.

"When fed, alligators overcome their natural wariness and can begin to associate people with food," said David Lucas, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

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