The body of an 88-year-old woman was found Monday near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, after what authorities described as a suspected alligator attack.
The woman, a resident of Sun City Hilton Head, appears to have been gardening before she wound up in a pond at the gated community for adults 55 and older, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Maj. Angela Viens said in an interview.
The woman couldn’t immediately be identified. It wasn’t clear how she ended up in the roughly 300-square-yard pond, Viens said.
Viens arrived at the scene a half-hour just before noon after someone dialed 911 and reported that a person was in the water with an alligator, she said.
Viens said she saw the animal, which she described as a large alligator, near the edge of the pond with the woman’s body.
“The alligator was basically holding her hostage, I guess — I don’t know what the appropriate term would be,” she told reporters at the scene. “It was guarding her and did not want people close by.”
The woman’s body was recovered at 1 p.m., Viens said. Authorities from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which led the response to the incident, captured the alligator around 4 p.m., she said.
It wasn’t clear what happened to the animal. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The last time someone was attacked by an alligator at Sun City, where more than 16,000 residents live and which describes itself as the largest “active adult community located in the heart of the South Carolina low country,” was in 2019, NBC affiliate WSAV reported.
Deborah Cook, who survived the attack, told the station that she had been walking her dog when the animal lunged at her leg and bit her hand, which she believed she’d lost.
“I was so angry — I didn’t want to die like that,” she told the station. “I just started punching him in his eyes. I thought, ‘I’m going to punish you.’ Miraculously he turned around and left.”
A person who answered the phone at Sun City on Monday declined to comment.