• Expert on Florida man's encounter with crocodile: 'He's extremely lucky to be alive'

    By: Amber Krycka , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    VIDEO: Florida man bitten after jumping into pit at St. Augustine Alligator Farm

    As the Florida man who jumped into a pit of crocodiles at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm recovers at the hospital, many people are wondering how he is alive.

    Surveillance video captured 23-year-old Brandon Hatfield's close encounter with a crocodile during his four-hour stay inside the exhibit.

    Park staff said he even swam alongside the crocodiles after breaking into the park.

    "They're sit and wait predators. They're always waiting on something to go on," John Brueggen said. 

    Brueggen is the director of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. He said the crocodiles are well-trained, they even know their names.

    He said they have routines – having company and eating in the middle of the night is not part of the schedule. 

    So when Hatfield jumped into the pit, Brueggen believes they were shocked.

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    "I think really the saving grace for him is just a total shock on the crocodile's part," he said. "It was totally shocking that it was such a prey item."

    Experts said crocodiles are much more vicious than alligators. Brueggen believes the 12-foot long Nile crocodile that bit the surprise visitor didn’t think of him as prey. 

    "I think the croc's reaction at first is, 'Oh my what is that?'" Brueggen said. "Bite it, because that's my defense mechanism, and then let go."

    Surveillance video shows Hatfield repeatedly jumping into the pond, which is only two-feet deep.

    Later, you can see a crocodile attack him -- but he somehow escaped. He can be seen limping away in pain after climbing the ladder, and eventually gets out of the exhibit. 

    Gil Costillo has been working with crocodiles and alligators for 40 years. He said in many cases, an attack like this would be deadly. 

    “They are a very aggressive type of crocodiles," he said. "They contribute to a lot of deaths. The fact that the guy is still alive, he’s very, very lucky."

    Brueggen said despite Hatfield being able to get inside the exhibit, it’s safe for visitors.

    “If you want to climb around a zoo like an orangutan, there's not much we can do to stop you," he said.

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