A heroic nine-year-old boy will have the best playground story when he returns to school this year, having fought off a 400-pound alligator.
The incident happened at lunchtime on Thursday when James Barney Jr had been riding his bike with friends before deciding to swim in a restricted area of Lake Tohopekaliga in Florida.
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He sustained 30 marks from the nine-foot creature’s claws and teeth, all of which were non-life-threatening, and he underwent surgery for his wounds to be “cleaned up, stapled and stitched”, his father James said.
Speaking from Florida's Arnold Palmer hospital, the boy told reporters how he didn’t initially realise what was happening as the reptile approached him.
“It really amazed me what happened,” James said, according to Sky News.
“At first I thought someone was just playing with me and I didn't know what happened.”
His quick-thinking saved him: “I reached down to go grab it and I felt its jaw - I felt its teeth and I didn't know what to do, so I immediately reacted and hit a couple of times.
“And then finally I had enough strength left to pry its jaw open a little.”
Lake Tohopekaliga, a popular tourist spot, had some of its nearby swimming areas closed while investigations began, and trappers were out in force to try and catch the alligator.
Barney Jr’s wounds were “superficial”, Sandra Ramirez, Public Information Officer for the City of Saint Cloud told ABC News.
However, one of the animal’s teeth was lodged in his skin, which he wanted to keep as a souvenir to show his friends but wasn’t allowed to.
“The tooth is pretty big. I wanted to keep it but animal control came in and took it so they could find the alligator that attacked me,” he said.
When Barney Jr, who is expected to make a full recovery, was asked if he would go back into the lake, he replied: “Negative”.