Man says despite losing arm to gator, he feels fortunate

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 10:29 AM CDT
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. (WBBH) - An alligator attacked a man early Sunday morning. The 23-year-old was rescued, but the gator got his arm.

“I didn’t lose my life; I lost an arm. It’s not the end of the world, you know?” said Jordan Rivera of Englewood.

It’s that attitude, that outlook on life, that stands out about Rivera.

Despite being laid up in a hospital bed with wires all over, he said he counting his blessings. His mother said she is, too.

“That’s the best thing is that I have him. Yes, arm gone, very traumatic, but he’s here,” said Teresa Lessa of Englewood.

An alligator attacked Rivera, nearly taking his life.

“They got my elbow. So I don’t have an elbow,” he said. “I can still move my arm around and what not.”

Rivera said he doesn’t remember much of what happened.

What he does recall is that the bar he was at, Banditos in Port Charlotte, was busy and the bathroom line was long.

So he walked to the pond out back.

“I just saw a little lake and just went over there and just, you know, take a little pee, what not,” Rivera said. “Something happened where I either tripped or the ground below me just went down.”

“I ended up in the water,” he said. “And that’s literally the last thing I remember.”

The next time he opened his eyes, he was in the hospital. It’s then he found out the gator ate his arm.

“Confusion, I was like ‘Whoa,’ because I just woke up and I was just sitting here. And I looked over and I saw my arm the way it was and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Rivera said. “It kind of feels like my arm is just there but not there.”

If you think his story is crazy, you’re not the only one. Try telling it the guy who’s living through it but remembers nothing.

“It was just the craziest thing. It’s almost out of a movie,” Rivera said.

It’s a movie that could’ve had a terribly tragic ending but instead turned into a story of heroes.

People at the bar rushed down to help Rivera, pulling him from the water and putting a tourniquet on his arm..

“I call them angels that were there that saved his life,” Lessa said. “The chance of someone being there with a tourniquet, to me, it’s a miracle that he’s here.”

“The first thing I would do is shake the man’s hand,” Rivera said.

His story has captivated people across southwest Florida but has also stirred up the rumor mill.

Some people online claimed he was feeding the gator.

“That is completely not true,” Rivera said. “They don’t even serve food at that bar, so I couldn’t have even served the gator food.”

Rivera said he would rather spread awareness that Florida’s prehistoric predators aren’t playing games.

“I would just show them my arm and say, ‘Hey bud,’” he said.

State nuisance gator trappers caught the alligator that bit Rivera. It measured in at 10-and-a-half feet long.

The Florida Wildlife Commission and a trapper said the animal was killed, which is typical when it comes to gator bites.