A 6-year-old South Florida boy survived an attack by an 8-foot alligator with just cuts and bruises to show for it.
Joey Welch was attacked on April 19 in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the area of Boynton Beach after falling into shallow waters at the edge of a road in the park.
"There is no rational reason for him to not just have survived, but survived so well," Joseph Welch said of his son.
Welch and his son had decided to go canoeing in the park, and while his father was signing up for the canoes, little Joey ran down a hill and landed facedown in the water.
"The second I heard the splash in the water, I raced down the hill," Welch said.
That's when he saw his son's arm in the gator's mouth. Welch wrapped his arms around his son's chest and started punching the gator.
"It was like I hitting a concrete block," he said. "My son was screaming and yelling."
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A man, who had been in line in front of Welch at the canoeing concession stand, ran over to help and told him to pull his son towards the shore. At some point, the man was able to kick the gator's underbelly, which freed the boy's arm from its mouth.
'It's just a surreal thing. It takes your mind a few minutes to absorb what is happening," Welch said.
The child sustained minor injuries on his right arm, should and chest, and Welch drove him to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, where the child was given antibiotics and then was released.
"The doctors and nurses couldn't believe it happened. They couldn't believe he didn't even have any broken bones," Welch said.
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Welch credits his wife's nightly prayer, Psalm 91 Verse 11, for protecting their only child.
"She literally prays over him," he said. "Very fortunate she does."
Welch also bruised his right hand from punching the gator.
Later, licensed trappers captured and killed the gator, as required by standard operating procedures.
That evening, Joey Welch, "slept like a baby," his father said.
"He's not suffering any emotional trauma," he said. "At first I was beating myself up about it."
He said he is taking his wife's advice. Rather than focusing on what could have happened, he is now focusing on what actually did occur.
But, he added that he will be sticking to salt water outings from now on.
“We are extremely relieved the child made it out of this potentially deadly incident with only minor injuries,” Rolf Olson, acting Project Leader of the refuge, said in an email statement. “This really could have ended very badly. We thank the members of the public who saw this happening and selflessly rushed in to do the right thing.”
For more information on the refuge click here.