‘Stings a little, but I’m good:’ 13-year-old bitten by alligator in Winter Springs

Attack happened in the water at Howell Creek Trestle

WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – A 13-year-old boy was bitten by an alligator on Tuesday near a Winter Springs creek, according to Seminole County fire officials and a 911 call from the boy.

“I just got bit by a gator,” the boy — later identified as Gabriel Klimis — said to 911 dispatchers.

The teen said he was bitten in the right hip while walking along the bank of the water at Howell Creek Trestle. Officials with the Seminole County Fire Department said their agency got the call — which came from the 1400 block of Mount Laurel Drive — but Oviedo Fire took the 13-year-old to a hospital.

“I’m OK though. I can walk and I can stand. I’m fine, it just stings a little, but I’m good,” the boy told the 911 operator.

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The wooden Howell Creek Trestle bridge is part of the Cross Seminole Trail and runs over Howell Creek. The creek connects directly to Lake Jesup.

Winter Springs police said they responded to an address on Laurel Drive around 7 p.m.

According to a police report, Klimis said that he and his friends were swimming in the creek and decided to leave due to a storm. He told police that they were walking along the bank of the creek when the alligator “suddenly jumped out of the water and bit him.”

“I just felt a tug on me, and I already knew what it was from the start...” Klimis told News 6. “I just slapped the water and started, like, trying to push him off of me.”

Klimis said he grabbed a stick to drudge his way out of the gator’s jaws. The alligator swam away, and the teen made his way from the creek and was able to call 911.

He described his wound as “not bleeding too bad, but my skin’s like open pretty good.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a statement on Wednesday that read in part:

“On June 20, 2023, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) received a report of a juvenile who was bitten by an alligator near Howell Creek in Seminole County. The FWC responded to the scene and the victim was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. A trapper was dispatched and the FWC is investigating the incident.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

In an update Thursday, FWC officials said they trapped an approximately 8-foot gator that they “are fairly confident this is the alligator from the incident, as it was found in the same location.” Officials said they are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates when available.

Allison Klimis, the teen’s mother, told News 6 that she’s grateful to God that he wasn’t more hurt.

“Been (a) tough kid his whole life, and I think this really showed,” she said. “I mean, everybody at the hospital said, ‘He’s Superman,’ and, I mean, he is.”

The FWC also offers the following precautionary measures near alligators, including in or near the water, to reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators:

  • Keep a safe distance if you see an alligator. If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.
  • Keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets often resemble alligators’ natural prey.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours and without your pet. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
  • Never feed an alligator. It’s illegal and dangerous. When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food. This can lead to dangerous circumstances for yourself and other people who could encounter the alligator in the future.

Lake Jesup is said to be teeming with alligators, according to gator expert Brandon Fisher.

“Lake Jesup actually used to be a dumping site for alligators in the state,” Fisher said in a 2021 interview with News 6. “Whether it is a myth or not, I always heard growing up you could take a stone and skip it on Lake Jesup and hit like 10 alligators. There are a lot of them there, I know that.”

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About the Authors:

Jacob joined ClickOrlando.com in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.