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    Man pounds 10-foot gator with rock to free child

    ''I didn't know fear,'' the man said. He twice freed his nephew from the beast. The child escaped serious injury.

    ©Associated Press
    March 11, 2003

    CLEWISTON -- A 6-year-old boy playing near a canal was twice pulled from an alligator's jaws by his uncle, who had to bash the 10-foot reptile with a stone to free his nephew. The boy suffered minor injuries.

    The 325-pound alligator attacked Jesse Valdez as he and his brother played Saturday beside a lake near their home in southwestern Florida.

    Jesse's uncle, Ever Barjsquas, said he heard the boy's screams and charged forward to help him when he realized what was happening. He said he grabbed the child's arm and began tugging.

    "At that moment, I didn't know fear," Barjsquas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I was desperately grabbing for him."

    Barjsquas, 25, of Avon Park, managed to free Jesse, but the gator immediately attacked again, grabbing the boy by his right shoulder and pulling him from his uncle's grasp.

    "When that happened, I didn't think I could do anything, but in that moment I grabbed him again," Barjsquas said. "I was hitting (the alligator) on the head, struggling."

    Barjsquas grabbed a stone and hit the alligator with it until Jesse was free.

    He estimated he fought with the gator for about two minutes.

    "I just don't want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't been there," he said.

    Jesse suffered puncture wounds to his right shoulder, right thigh and back and severe bruising to his chest and back, said Capt. David Stermen of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    He was treated for his injuries at a hospital and released Saturday.

    Barjsquas was bitten on the right hand during the struggle.

    The alligator was later trapped and killed.

    Stermen said residents in the trailer park near the canal likely were feeding the alligator.

    The alligator had heavy jowls, muscular legs and a big tail -- indicators it was well-nourished, Stermen said. And the alligator didn't hesitate to make a beeline for bait thrown out by a trapper, Stermen added.

    Officials will continue to investigate whether anyone in the trailer park fed the gator, which is a second-degree misdemeanor.

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