- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After 14-year-old Edna Wilks was pulled under water by an alligator, she surfaced — her arm still in the gator's mouth — and began prying at its jaws with her other hand. By the time the reptile let go, her friends had fled.
Except for one. Best friend Amanda Valance stayed behind and pulled her to shore, pursued by the bellowing gator.
"She saw his tail whipping around in the water, and she told me she thought to herself, 'I can't let her die,'" Edna recalled yesterday from her hospital bed. She received blood transfusions and treatment for a broken arm. Surgeons cleaned debris from the muscles torn apart in the gator's angry jaws.
If Amanda, also 14, hadn't been brave enough to stay, Edna thinks the alligator would have surely killed her. "We've been best friends for about 21/2 years, and now she's more than my best friend, she's my hero," Edna said.
The girls and four friends were floating on Boogie Boards in Little Lake Conway on Saturday night when something grabbed Edna's arm and pulled her under the water. She quickly realized it was an alligator and screamed at the top of her lungs. "He was spinning me in the water real fast and jerking me."
She heard a loud crack as the gator snapped her arm bones. "I was thinking 'This is how I'm going to die. I'm going to drown in a minute.'"
When the spinning stopped, she surfaced and managed to take a deep breath, her arm still trapped in the gator's powerful jaws. She pried at the gator's jaws until it finally let go.
The other children, frightened at the sight of the angry gator, fled to the shore. "For five split seconds, I felt like I had to leave, but I could not do that to her," Amanda said.
The girl stayed a couple of feet away throughout the attack. When Edna popped free, she grabbed her and helped her onto a Boogie Board. Then she pulled the board to shore, as the gator trailed behind.
"The alligator was still hanging around and followed them halfway to shore," said Nancy Wilks, Edna's mother. "The whole time Amanda was swimming she was thinking the alligator was going to get her feet."
Alerted to the attack by two boys, Mrs. Wilks ran out and saw Edna and Amanda on shore and an alligator floating among the abandoned Boogie Boards. "I'm amazed that she's even moving, that he didn't kill her," Mrs. Wilks said. "Any time you hear about an alligator attack it's usually fatal. I've never heard of anyone being pulled under and spinning and living to tell the tale. They call it the 'death spin,' that tornadolike horizontal spin." Alligators use the spin to kill larger prey.
Marksmen from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission later killed two gators nearby — one 6 feet 5 inches long, the other 11 feet 2 inches — big enough, said Lt. Joy Hill, a commission spokeswoman, to have killed a grown man.


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