Beaufort News

Gator attack victim remains hospitalized in Charleston

Officials from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston have yet to say whether surgeons there were successful in reattaching the arm of a 77-year-old man attacked Thursday by an alligator while playing golf on Fripp Island.

A hospital spokeswoman declined again Saturday to release information on the condition of the victim, who was flown to the hospital with his severed arm about after being bitten by a 10-foot, 400-pound alligator near a lagoon on one of the island's two golf courses. Fripp Island officials said they were told by the man's son that his father was in stable condition.

According to Savannah television station WTOC, the victim is 77-year-old James Wiencek. Fripp Island and hospital officials would not confirm WTOC's report Saturday.

James Wiencek Jr., the victim's son, owns a home on Fripp Island and is from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, according to Beaufort County property records. Messages left Saturday at the home on Fripp Island and Wiencek's home in Chagrin Falls were not returned.

Deanna Hormell, who lives next door to the Wienceks on Fripp Island, said she was not aware that her neighbor's father was the victim in the highly-publicized attack on the Ocean Creek golf course Thursday.

Witnesses say the victim was on the 11th hole Thursday when he knelt down to pick up his ball and was attacked by the reptile, which dragged him by his arm into a nearby pond. The victim lost his arm below the elbow in the struggle.

Wildlife officials were able to kill the alligator and remove the arm from its stomach. Paramedics from Beaufort County EMS then packed the limb in ice.

Wildlife officials are still unsure what prompted the attack, but a Fripp Island spokeswoman said Friday that the reptile may have been fed by humans in the past.

Doctors at MUSC were unable to re-attach the arm of 59-year-old Bill Hedden, who was attacked by a 12-foot, 600-pound alligator while snorkeling in Lake Moultrie in September 2007. Hedden's left arm was also retrieved from the belly of the alligator after the reptile was shot and killed by wildlife officials.

No one in South Carolina has ever been killed by an alligator, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.