Tavares firefighter who nearly lost his arm after gator bite speaks to FOX 35

Carsten Kieffer is recovering from his second surgery after he was bitten by a 12-foot alligator.

Kieffer spoke with FOX 35 News over FaceTime from his hospital bed on Tuesday at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

The Tavares firefighter has been hunting since he was a boy and hunting for alligators for the last six years. 

“We’ve been gator hunting for the last six years or so, successfully getting 5-6 gators a year. I’ve never experienced anything like this,” he said.

The incident happened on Lake Jesup on Thursday. 

Kieffer and two friends were hunting for alligators when they caught the 12-footer by a snatch line. 

Since they were in shallow water, the alligator was able to push off the bottom of the lake. 

“The animal was able to rock the boat, make me lose my balance and then launch itself into the boat and get a hold of my arm,” Kieffer said.

Friend and fellow firefighter Randy Matheny took quick action.

Matheny put the end of a rod inside the gator’s mouth to prevent it from rolling. 

Once Kieffer’s right arm was free, Matheny immediately ripped off his belt and created a tourniquet. 

“It still crushed my radius and ulnar and ripped the skin off,” Kieffer said. “I can’t thank him enough because what he did on the boat and his treatment after probably saved my life.”

Nerves and muscle in Kieffer’s arm were still intact. 

He thanked talented surgeons for reconstructing his arm. 

His next surgery will be in a few days. 

“I feel pretty good. My spirit is high. I can move my fingers; I can feel my fingers,” he said.

Though recovery will take some time, Kieffer looks forward to fishing, hunting and getting back to work eventually. 

He said he will likely not alligator hunt again. 

“I could’ve lost my arm. I could’ve lost my life very easily and I didn’t. So, I think now it’s time to take my time and stop and smell the roses every now and then,” he said.

Since the incident, the community has come together to provide assistance to Kieffer’s wife and small children. 

Kieffer lamented missing his kids' first day of school but expressed gratitude to those who are bringing his family food, mowing his lawn and doing other tasks to help out. A friend also created this GoFundMe page to raise money that will cover some of Kieffer’s medical expenses.

On September 26, friends of the Kieffer family plan to have a barbeque benefit at Wooton Park in Tavares to raise money and lift spirits.