TAVARES - A 12-year-old boy swimming near a marina in the Dead River died Wednesday night after he was attacked by a 10-foot alligator.
Brian Jeffery Griffin of Fruitland Park was pulled under the dark water minutes after two friends screamed for him to get out of the river when they spotted alligators, officials and witnesses said.
Deputies and witnesses saw the alligator surface at least once with the boy in its jaws, but the alligator quickly disappeared across the river in north Lake County about 30 miles northwest of Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel reported for Thursday editions.
The boy was underwater for at least 25 minutes before a Lake County Sheriff's Office helicopter saw him and dropped a buoy to guide deputies, who pulled him up.
"We saw gators all day," said 14-year-old Justin VanGorder, who was swimming with Brian. "Every time we saw them, we would get out of the water."
Justin said he and the other boy saw some alligators and got out of the water, but Brian wouldn't get out.
"We screamed at him to get out, but he wouldn't," Justin said.
The boy was pronounced dead at Leesburg Regional Medical Center at 9:19 p.m., deputies said.
Investigators dimmed the lights around the marina and said they were going to shoot any alligators they could find. The attack was the first alligator fatality in Lake County since the state started keeping records in 1948. It happened as dangerous encounters with alligators are escalating with the end of mating season and the beginning of summer's torrential rain showers.
Authorities said they are dealing with more complaints because so many of the deadly reptiles are turning up around rain-bloated retention ponds, ditches and canals.