Man who lost arm during alligator attack says it was ‘do or die’

Eric Merda lost most of his arm when he was attacked by an alligator while swimming across a lake in July.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:37 AM CDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB/Gray News) – Eric Merda, 43, was attacked by an alligator while swimming across Lake Manatee in Florida in July.

“I got startled and I decided to swim, she grabbed the outside of my arm, and I grabbed her,” Merda told WWSB. “I didn’t want her rolling over on me, she snapped my arm backwards and she dragged me under three times. I still got my arm on her; she got her teeth on me, and I just kicked like heck.”

Merda said he got lost in the swamp area and that’s when he decided to try and swim to safe land and back to his vehicle.

“My bone was sticking out and everything and I fought my way out of that swamp for three days,” Merda said.

Wildlife expert Justin Matthews says Merda should not have been swimming in those gator-infested waters.

“He is definitely lucky to be alive, I was surprised that he didn’t drown,” Matthews said. “He just got lucky. God must have been on his side.”

Merda spent about three weeks in the hospital. He lost most of his arm but said his recovery is going very well.

“I’m doing really good actually, high spirits, the arm is feeling great,” Merda said.

Merda says this experience has inspired him to share his story so this doesn’t ever happen to anyone else.

“It’s do or die, do you want to live or do you want to die,” Merda said. “I was given the opportunity to make a choice and obviously I chose to live.”