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WEST VALLEY CITY — An animal handler was rescued by a bystander Saturday after being attacked by an alligator at a petting zoo in West Valley City.
"Working with some of these animals has inherent risks that we as the staff accept. Yesterday, the sort of event that we hope never happens happened. One of our gator handlers got bitten by our large alligator and things took a bad turn," Scales and Tails Utah posted on Facebook.
A video taken by a bystander and shared on social media shows the alligator clamp down on the woman's hand, pulling her into the water with him. A viewer apparently there with his family yells: "We've got trouble" and then jumps into the water and gets on top of the alligator.
Several seconds pass while the man stays on top of the alligator, and the woman appears to remain in the reptile's grip. Another man comes to the side of the cage to help, and eventually pulls the woman out of the water as the alligator releases her.
The handler who was attacked then tells the man how to get off the alligator safely.
Shane Richins, owner of Scales and Tails, said the alligator is usually "mellow," but the trainer might have made a "slight misstep" when putting her hand out in preparation for a feeding. The trainer, who is experienced and well-versed, used her training to roll with him rather than fight.
While jumping in to help without experience usually isn't advisable, Richins said the man who got on top of the alligator likely saved her from serious injury.
"I hope no one thinks it's a good idea to just run out and hop on a gator because they saw it, but they probably saved her arm and possibly her life by running in and stabilizing him so he couldn't keep rolling on her, and then they just held him still until he relaxed and let her go," Richins said.
He called it a "very scary experience."
"We never expect someone to jump in like that, but we're super grateful they did," Richins said.
Another bystander with a nursing background started first aid before EMTs arrived, according to the business's Facebook post, and the handler "is doing well and is in recovery."
Contributing: Dan Rascon