Man who lost arm during alligator attack says it was ‘do or die’

ABC7 News at 11pm
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 8:34 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:39 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - There isn’t much that remains of Eric Merda’s right arm. The 43-year-old was attacked by an alligator while swimming across Lake Manatee near the Fish Camp in Myakka City.

“I got startled and I decided to swim, she grabbed the outside of my arm and I grabbed her,” said Merda. “I didn’t want her rolling over on me, she snapped my arm backwards and she dragged me under three times. I still got my arm on her, she got her teeth on me and I just kicked like heck.”

Merda says he got lost in the swamp area and that’s when he decided to try and swim to safe land and back to his vehicle. The gator attack happened about 10 p.m. July 17. He would be found three days later.

“My bone was sticking out and everything and I fought my way out of that swamp for three days,” said Merda.

Wildlife expert Justin Matthews says Merda should not have been swimming in those gator-infested waters. He’s urging everyone to not swim in fresh water areas. Matthews says there’s a good chance an alligator is in there.

“He is definitely lucky to be alive, I was surprised that he didn’t drown,” said Matthews. “He just got lucky, God must have been on his side.”

Merda spent about three weeks in the hospital. The Sarasota man who now lives in Bradenton says his recovery is going very well.

“I’m doing really good actually, high spirits, the arm is feeling great,” said Merda.

Merda says this experience has inspired him to share his story so this doesn’t ever happen to anyone else.

“It’s do or die, do you want to live or do you want to die,” said Merda. “I was given the opportunity to make a choice and obviously I chose to live.”

For anyone who would like to help, here’s a link to Eric Merda’s GoFundMe page