Teens rescue man who they say tried to wrestle a gator - FOX 13 News

Teens rescue man who they say tried to wrestle a gator

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It’s one of those only-in-Florida stories, but with a twist.

The headline “gator attacks man” may have been the other way around.

Two teenagers from Mulberry say they rescued a man from an alligator -- after the man tried to wrestle it.

"I don't know what was going through his head because I would never even attempt a thing like that," said 18-year-old Daniel Butler. "I just can't believe he actually tried to wrestle a gator.”

Thats right: Daniel and his friend, 16-year-old Ryan Stromsnes, say they saw the man they rescued attack an alligator -- not the other way around.

Daniel and Ryan were hanging out near the shore line at Loyce E. Harpe Park in Mulberry when it happened.

That’s where they ran across 29-year-old Matthew Pope, who claimed his dog was just eaten by an alligator, and he was looking for revenge.

So he jumped in the water.

"He tried to grab the gator by its snout and that’s when the gator got upset and broke free from his grip and proceeded to bite the man in the right arm," Daniel said.

And it got worse.

"The gator dragged him under and he was gone for a few seconds. He came up screaming,” Daniel added.

Ryan did what most would not.

"I was just freaking out and jumped in and then grabbed it by its tail, that’s the first thing I saw," Ryan said.

Then Daniel jumped in, too.

"I went to grab it by the belly and when I touched it underneath, the gator freaked out let go and look off," Daniel said.

They helped Pope out of the water, but his arm was bad shape.

"[We] called 911. I used this belt as a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding and things like that," Ryan said.

Pope was rushed to the hospital.

Wildlife officers trapped and killed gator. And it turns out the dog tale may have been just that -- a tale.

"We heard later he probably didn't have a dog. He was just trying to get the gator," Ryan said.

“I think he thought his experience level was a little higher. I don't think he will be doing it again," Daniel said.

There was no word on Pope’s condition late Thursday afternoon.

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