(CNN) – After the fatal gator attack at a Walt Disney World resort, Florida wildlife officials said nothing like that had ever happened before. But one New Hampshire man says that’s not entirely true because he was attacked by an alligator as a child at Disney World thirty years ago.
Paul Santamaria, survived Alligator Attack said, “It was pretty terrifying at the time.”
When Paul Santamaria was just 8 years old, he and his family from Bristol took a trip to Disney World. They stayed at Disney’s fort wilderness resort. Just 40 minutes into the vacation, Santamaria was feeding ducks at a pond when the unthinkable happened.
Paul Santamaria: “Under the water where you couldn’t see it was an alligator, it came out of the water, knocked me down, grabbed my leg and started to throw me around and tried to pull me into the water.”
Santamaria yelled for his 12-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother.
Paul Santamaria: “My sister grabbed me under the arms and started pulling against the alligator, my brother started hitting it with whatever he could find and then trying to get it to let me go and with my free leg I started to kick it and try to get away from it.”
He did get away with his life…but left with gashes in his leg and a tooth stuck in his thigh. He stayed in an Orlando hospital for a week.
Paul Santamaria: “Instead of just freezing they decided to fight to help me to get away and I’m here because of it. I was lucky.”
Florida wilderness officials caught the alligator and killed it. Now Santamaria has two-year-old twin girls. When he heard the news that an alligator pulled 2-year-old lane graves under the water and drowned him yesterday, he was horrified.
Paul Santamaria: “What happened to those people in Florida last night is just terrible. It’s unfortunate
While Santamaria says it would be wise for Disney World to have clearer signs alligators are common but attacks like his are rare.
Paul Santamaria: “There’s a lot of social media bashing that goes on that’s not really fair, to either side.”
Walt Disney World said Thursday it is reviewing the placement and wording of warning signs at its parks. In a statement, a Disney official said all of the park’s beaches are currently closed while it conducts a swift and thorough review of all its processes and protocols.
Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission says gator attacks are rare, but at least 23 people have been killed by alligators since 1973.