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Guests jump in to rescue handler bitten by alligator

Posted at 11:28 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 00:22:03-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A handler at a West Valley City reptile and bird center was taken to the hospital over the weekend after she was bitten by an alligator as guests looked on. Two men were able to jump into the enclosure to help get the handler to safety.

"It was just a normal training routine, something that I've done a bunch of different times," said Lindsay Bull from her hospital bed Monday. "But working with animals like this, you kind of accept that something can go wrong and probably will go wrong at some point, and that's what happened Saturday."

Video from Scales and Tails Utah on Saturday shows Bull talking about the alligator, Darth Gator, as it came up to the platform where he wasn't supposed to be. As Bull attempted to push the alligator back, it grabbed her left hand and wouldn't let go.

Full video of the incident: (Warning: May be disturbing to some viewers)

Alligator Scales and Tails

"He initially bit, and then bit down harder," Bull said. "That kind of alerted me that it was time to go."

Bull was concerned that Darth Gator would attempt a roll that would put her underwater. She said once the alligator began to pull back on her arm, she knew he was trying to roll and decided to go into the alligator's section of the enclosure.

"Being able to roll with him like that probably kept my hand there initially. If they get enough leverage, they can definitely just twist it right off," added Bull.

Once Bull was pulled into the water and the alligator began thrashing its head, it was clear to guests that it was not part of the routine.

"We've got trouble in here," a guest, later identified as Donnie Wiseman, yells twice before jumping in the water and covering the alligator to help Bull. Lindsay then calmly directs Wiseman on the next steps that should be taken.

"Everybody keeps saying 'you're so calm, you're so calm,' I guess I just think that in that situation I just maybe didn't have much of a choice," Bull explained. "It's like, be calm and hopefully keep everything intact or, you know, if you freak out there's just such a higher chance that something can go wrong."

When the alligator begins to struggle, Wiseman secures the alligator as Bull is able to escape the pool with help from another man, Todd Christopher. Bull then explains to Wiseman how he should then exit the water.

"I cannot express enough gratitude to both of those men, Donnie and Todd, that were right there, supporting me through that." said Bull, a sentiment shared by the owners of Scales and Tails Utah.

Owner reacts after alligator bites hand of handler

"You couldn't expect the regular public to do that," said Scales and Tails Utah owner Shane Richins said. "In fact, staff that hadn't been trained on the gator yet I wouldn't expect to do that. And so that they were willing to jump in there of their own volition was a... that's courage."

With Bull outside the pool, Todd's wife, Amy Christopher, was able to start first aid ahead of emergency crews arriving on the scene. Bull, who has been with Scales and Tails Utah for just over three-and-a-half years, was taken to the hospital where she is doing well and is in recovery.

Despite Saturday's incident, Bull said there's no way she's ready to quit.

"No way, I love Darth Gator!" exclaimed Bull. "I'll be back there as soon as I can."