Boy, 12, killed by alligator

Friday, June 20, 2003

TAVARES, Fla. -- A 12-year-old boy swimming in the Dead River was dragged under and killed by an alligator minutes after two friends spotted the reptile in the water and screamed at him to get out.

The alligator -- estimated at 8 to 11 feet -- surfaced at least once with the boy, Bryan Jeffrey Griffin, in its jaws, but quickly disappeared Wednesday under the dark water, witnesses said.

On Thursday, sheriff's deputies trapped and killed seven 8- to 11-foot alligators in their search for the one that killed the boy.

Trappers planned to search for more alligators in the half-mile-long river Thursday night and kill any larger than 8 feet, to be on the safe side.

A friend of Bryan's, Justin VanGorder, 14, said the gators were around all day as the boys swam near a marina about 30 miles northwest of Orlando.

"Every time we saw them, we would get out of the water," but Bryan stayed in, Justin told the Orlando Sentinel. "We screamed at him to get out, but he wouldn't."

The alligators will be examined to determine which one killed the boy.

Authorities said complaints about alligators have increased lately because so many are turning up around rain-bloated retention ponds, ditches and canals.

It is also the end of their mating season.

Florida has had 12 other fatal alligator attacks since the state began keeping track in 1948. The most recent came in September 2001, when an 81-year-old man bled to death after his leg was bitten off below the knee.

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