Visitor Jumps In Tank After Trainer Attacked By Alligator In West Valley City
Aug 16, 2021, 11:19 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 1:49 pm
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A 31-year-old woman was hospitalized after an alligator she’s worked with for many years bit her hand and pulled her into the water at a traveling reptile show in West Valley City.
Dramatic video showed the encounter, which ended after a bystander jumped into the tank and grabbed the gator while the woman escaped.
“It is a very scary experience,” said Shane Richins, owner of Scales and Tails Utah, which is based in West Valley City.
“Obviously an alligator can kill you pretty quickly. It doesn’t take long,” Lindsay Bull said Monday from her hospital bed.
The incident happened during a reptile show with children and adults present on Saturday.
The private birthday party group came to see the 8.5-foot-long, 150-pound alligator, who goes by the name “Darth Gator.”
Bull was with another staff member when she decided to show the group of children a routine feeding of “Darth Gator” — something she does multiple times a week.
“Darth Gator was being a little bit more pushy, which isn’t uncommon,” she said.
Instead of remaining in the water, he was on the platform, waiting for her at the enclosure’s door.
She opens the door and says, “Back!” — a command he knows and understands — but rather than moving back, he pushes toward her.
“As I was pushing up, he was pushing down, and the best guess I have is that he slipped his head to the side and my hand was in the way,” she said. “But then he really bit down, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh, this is going to be serious.’”
Bull has replayed worst-case scenarios over and over in her head before, and in this instance, her training kicked in and she knew what was coming: a death roll. That’s when the alligator clamps onto its food and rolls to rip off chunks small enough to swallow.
“I didn’t want to be outside of the enclosure if he was going to be rolling because that would guarantee that I would get my arm ripped off,” she said.
So, as soon as he pulled on her arm, she climbed into the enclosure and held onto his mouth so she could roll with him.
After the first roll, she wraps her legs around his head, preparing for another one.
“She’s very experienced and well-versed in how to handle the gators. Her training kicked in. He started to pull, so she went in with him,” said Richins. “She’s a small person. He’s a big gator. If she tried to fight him, she’d lose that fight, so when he started to roll, he got that one roll in, and then she decided to roll with him to help preserve herself.”
Video: Theresa Wiseman pic.twitter.com/1slofxBF54
— Matt Rascon KSL (@MattRasconKSL) August 16, 2021
At this point, parents started scooping up their children and taking them away from the enclosure, while Donnie Wiseman was already inside on the platform, asking what he could do.
Bull, who appears to remain surprisingly calm during the encounter, tells him he can jump on the gator’s back.
Wiseman doesn’t hesitate.
“For him to come in and like jump into action like that, he absolutely, he’s a hero for having done what he did,” Bull said.
“I hope nobody thinks it’s a good idea to just run out and hop on a gator because they saw it,” Richins said. “But yeah, they probably saved her arm and possibly her life by running in and stabilizing him so he couldn’t keep rolling on her.”
For nearly a minute and a half, the gator has her hand clamped in his jaw, and Wiseman is wrestling with the gator on his back.
Another bystander, Todd Christopher, has been behind Bull the entire time and asks what he can do.
She warns him that she may pass out and may need help getting out when and if the gator lets go.
Christopher notices before she does and pulls her out before the gator can do any more damage.
“No matter how much preparation goes into it, you can’t know exactly what it’s going to be like when it happens,” Bull said.
In the meantime, Wiseman continues to struggle on the back of the alligator.
Bull is now bleeding and exhausted, but she stays at the edge of the enclosure and calmly coaches Wiseman on how to safely get out.
When everyone is safe, a third bystander, Amy Christopher, comes to Bull’s side.
Bull is worried the teeth hole in her wrist could be life threatening.
Christopher tells her she’s a registered nurse and offers some immediate aide.
“I can’t explain how grateful I was for [Amy] just jumping in and taking control of the situation like she did,” Bull said. “I couldn’t have gotten luckier with the people who were around. They definitely played their part in making sure I was okay.”
Bull told KSL’s Dan Rascon her hand is expected to make a full recovery and “she can’t wait” to get back to work.
GRAPHIC WARNING: These are pictures of the injury to the trainer’s left hand.
— Dan Rascon (@TVDanRascon) August 16, 2021