Parents of boy killed by alligator in 1993 relate to latest alligator attack
When authorities announced that a 2-year-old boy had been grabbed Tuesday night by an alligator near a Walt Disney World resort hotel in Florida, few people understood the plight of the boy’s parents quite like Donna and Gary Weidenhamer.
The Weidenhamers’ 10-year-old son Bradley died when an alligator grabbed him and dragged him into the Loxahatchee River in Martin County, Florida, on June 20, 1993.
“Obviously it’s a horrible situation,” Gary Weidenhamer said. “It brings back memories of the horrible situation we went through.”
“Losing a child is never easy, but when it’s such a public way, it’s even harder.”
Bradley was on an end-of-season canoe trip with his parents and members of his Little League team, about halfway through a 7-mile trip when the group encountered several downed trees that blocked the river, Weidenhamer said.
While the adults worked to move the trees so the group could pass, Bradley joined a small crowd playing and relaxing in the shallow water. An alligator attacked him, his father said.
“The alligator took the boy`s head in his mouth and pulled him underwater,” Jim Huffstodt, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission spokesman, told media at the time.
The commission was a precursor to today’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Weidenhamer said he and Little League coach Miguel Estrada hit the alligator and struggled to pull the boy from its powerful jaws as others began beating the animal with canoe paddles.
When they finally pried Bradley away from the alligator they placed his small body into a canoe, Weidenhamer said, and performed CPR as they raced to get help downriver where an ambulance took Bradley to a helicopter to Jupiter Hospital.
But it was too late. Bradley was pronounced dead of massive head injuries, hospital officials told local media at the time.
“For us, faith in God and our church and friends and relatives helped us get through that,” said Weidenhamer.
Such a violent death was hard to cope with, Donna Weidenhamer said, but it helped them re-evaluate what was important in their lives.
“It makes you realize how important your family is. It puts it in perspective. How important it is to share your faith with people so they can be strong through challenging things in life,” said Donna Weidenhamer.
According to the Weidenhamers, authorities eventually caught and killed the alligator.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Gary Weidenhamer said “You don’t get over it. You learn how to deal with it.”