A very large palm frond
An amusing story from the Tampa Tribune. Isn't life in Florida wonderful?
Linked to- Adam, Bullwinkle, Jo, The World According to Carl,
FORT MEADE - It's 4 a.m. on a dark, rural stretch of Polk County highway, and your truck has just collided so hard with a 10-foot alligator that it set off your air bag. When you start to open the door, you see the silhouette of a thrashing tail stretching from beneath. You hear grunting, and the truck starts to sway.
What do you do?
Jennifer Maldonado and Aimee Baker say they shut the doors, called 9-1-1 and freaked out. A half-hour later, rescue workers coaxed them out, managed to back the truck off the gator and watched as the injured reptile snapped at the tires and undercarriage and then slinked away unhappily along a nearby dirt road.
A state trapper later caught the gator and measured it at 10 feet, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Nobody was seriously hurt, except the gator.
"It was the scariest thing I've ever seen in my whole life," said Baker, who was riding along as her friend Maldonado delivered The Tampa Tribune in the Fort Meade area early Friday.
One Menacing Palm Frond
Maldonado and Baker were making good time on the route. They had just delivered papers to a store east of town and were returning to Fort Meade, heading west on U.S. 98 near Pool Branch Road.
About 3:55, as they came around a bend in the road at 45 mph, they saw something lying across their lane in front of them.
"I thought it was a palm frond," Baker said. "It stretched from the yellow line to the white line."
Maldonado said she swerved, but the gator lunged with her, and her Chevy S-10 struck and rolled over it, wedging the animal underneath.
Shaken by the crash and afraid she'd broken her wrist when the airbag went off, Maldonado started to get out, assuming that the gator had been killed. That's when she saw the tail and felt the angry gator start struggling to free itself.
"It was grunting and roaring and shaking the whole truck," Maldonado said.
She called 9-1-1 and waited, afraid to try to restart the truck for fear of further riling the alligator.
"I was hysterical," Maldonado said.
Alone In The Dark Atop A Gator
So the truck sat, in the middle of the road, waiting for help while the gator shook and struggled with all its might. Maldonado and Baker say it took half an hour for someone to respond after the women called 9-1-1. Baker said a 9-1-1 operator would not stay on the phone with the women and expressed irritation that they kept calling.
The precise tape couldn't be located Friday afternoon. County emergency officials, however, said they would review the calls.
It's up to individual dispatchers on "a case-by-case basis" to decide if they need to stay on the phone with a 9-1-1 caller, said Heather Duckworth, a county spokeswoman.
As the women waited, a number of cars passed without stopping before one Samaritan finally checked on the women and then advised them to do exactly what they were doing: sit still.
Emergency workers eventually reached the scene. When the gator seemed to have calmed down, they helped the women out of the truck. One of the responders then started it up and backed out over the gator, which the women said tried to bite the truck as it moved away.
"It lashed at the tires," Baker said.
The gator crawled away but was later captured by a trapper, highway patrol and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials confirmed. The gator's fate wasn't immediately known, but Baker said it was clearly injured and bleeding after the crash.
Nuisance alligators are typically taken to a processing center to be killed.
The alligator likely had crawled up from a large pond in the middle of rolling pasture land adjacent to that stretch of U.S. 98.
Maldonado went to the hospital to check on her wrist, which proved not to be broken. No other injuries were reported. Maldonado, 26, who works two jobs to help support her young family, had presence of mind enough to call the Tribune from the truck as the gator thrashed around and alert them to her delivery problem.
So if your paper was late Friday morning, have a little compassion. "An alligator immobilized my truck" is a pretty good excuse.