Quick Thinking Spared Trainer in Gator Attack
BEREA, Ohio — An alligator attack on a trainer at the Cuyahoga County Fair in Berea prompted fair officials to close down the exhibit.
The Wildlife Entertainment & Education, Inc. Kachunga Alligator Show was scheduled to be at the fair each night, but an incident Thursday prematurely ended its run.
According to company CEO Gil Castillo, one of his seasoned trainers, Danny Beck, was performing a common stunt when he accidentally placed his arm in the alligator’s mouth.
Castillo said the gator instinctively chomped down on the arm.
“It landed in the gator’s mouth so the gator did what they do and clamped down on his arm,” said Castillo.
Stunned members of the audience shrieked, but Fox 8 viewer Johnny Minor recorded the attack on his cellphone.
Johnny had a feeling something was going to happen and told Fox 8 News, “I don’t know what went wrong but something definitely happened.”
The 7½ foot gator weighs 180 pounds and is thought to be between 15-25 years of age.
No one recalls any problems with the aquatic reptile, which is one of hundreds owned by the company.
Castillo said they rotate the gators from shows on the road back to their sanctuary in Florida for rest and relaxation. He’s been in the business for about 30 years and said they’ve performed over 100,000 shows around the world.
Castillo said it’s a dangerous job but trainers know the risks. He said Danny Beck made a mistake, but “these things happen. We’re all human.”
Back at the fairgrounds, witness Johnny Minor said it looked like the alligator was crushing Beck’s arm.
“Crushing down on the bone,” Minor said. “Muscle started coming out of the arm, bleeding everywhere. Oh man, I don’t even know, it was the craziest thing to ever see.”
But incredibly, Beck only suffered flesh wounds which were repaired with stitches.
He wanted to resume the show but Cuyahoga County Fair officials decided it was best to cancel the exotic animal show for this year.
Board President Tim Fowler said, “One of our major concerns is the safety and wellbeing of people on our fairgrounds and we looked at this as a safety issue.”
And some quick thinking saved Danny’s arm and possibly his life.
Castillo said, “The idea that he grabbed hold of the alligator when he bit him and kept him from being able to roll over, which would’ve caused severe damage.”
The show’s emcee, who is himself a trainer, also helped to quickly free Danny’s arm from the gator’s jaws.
Castillo does not believe anyone else was in any danger at any time but he respects the board’s decision and hopes they can bring their educational show back to Cuyahoga County in the future.
Fairgoers seemed to support that idea, especially Johnny Minor.
“I hope the guy’s alright and I hope to see another gator show in my life,” said Minor.
In the meantime, the fair board said there are hundreds of other attractions to enjoy at the 2012 Cuyahoga County Fair.