FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Florida man who was attacked by an alligator while diving for golf balls in a lake says the reptile grabbed his arm and wouldn’t let go so he started punching it in the eyes.
CBS affiliate WINK-TV reports an 8 to 10-foot alligator attacked Scott Lahodik Friday afternoon as he was diving.
“He just came and, full blast, grabbed my arm all the way back in his throat and then he started to roll with me,” Lahodik said from his hospital room in the southwest Florida city of Fort Myers. “He rolled a couple times and then he still didn’t let go so I knew I had to do something, so I started punching him up by the eye and then he let go.”
He said he punched the gator in the eyes and managed to get out of the water. He hopped in a golf cart so he could seek medical assistance.
“I was going to lay down on the green, but I knew if I did, I didn’t think I would make it,” he said.
According to WINK-TV, Lahodik underwent surgery and was admitted to an intensive care unit. His family is working to transfer him to another hospital.
Lahodik said he’d made a career diving for golf balls since he retired from the military in 1988. He has 400 stitches and staples in his arm and thinks his diving days are over.
His wife, Maritza Lahodik, said she’ll never forget the call from her husband moments after he escaped the animal’s jaws.
“I got a call with him screaming on the other line with a gut-wrenching sound telling me that he had been attacked by an alligator,” she said. “Given the fact that this gator was the size that it was, where it happened and how it had happened, I have no qualms about saying that this was a miracle, that I believe that God was protecting him.”
It remains unclear when Lahodik will have full use of his arm again.
© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.