HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) - An Endicott woman died during an alligator attack Monday morning as she was walking her dog in Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Authorities say 45-year old Cassandra Cline, a kindergarten teacher at George F. Johnson Elementary in Endicott, was attempting to rescue her pup when the incident occurred.
“Apparently the dog got too close to the lagoon and the alligator attempted to attack the dog,” said Edward Allen, Beaufort County Coroner. "In an effort to save her dog, the alligator turned on her.”
Allen said the gator grabbed hold of the dog's leash and dragged the woman about 14 feet into the lagoon.
While the dog was unharmed, Cline did not survive.
Allen said he spoke with her husband who was out of the area and on his way back. The couple did not have any children.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Cline as well as their neighbors and other family members," Allen said.
A forensic autopsy has been scheduled to determine the official cause of death.
According to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, deputies along with the Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue and Sea Pines Security responded to the incident around 9:30 a.m. on Governor's Lane.
Upon arrival, fire personnel located Cline inside of the lagoon and recovered her body.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) responded to the scene. At that time, the alligator had been hooked and was in the process of being snared.
The alligator was then euthanized. A necropsy will be performed.
"It's a very rare occurrence and one we hope we will not witness again," said Allen.
According to Sam Chappelear, Assistant Chief of Wildlife with SC DNR, this was the second fatal alligator attack in the state.
The first fatality occurred in Charleston in 2016. A 90-year-old woman was found in a pond behind the facility where she lived.
While fatal attacks are uncommon, Chappelear says the presence of alligators is not.
"If you're in the Lowcountry near a body of water, there is probably going to be an alligator in it at some point in time," he said.
Chappelear offered some reminders about alligator safety:
- Do not feed alligators: It's illegal & teaches them to associate people with food
- Be cautious around water
- Keep a close eye on dogs; keep them on their leashes
- Contact 1-800-922-5431 to report non-emergency tips to SCDNR
“Alligators will very aggressively go after a dog especially if it's at the water's edge or in the water itself," he explained. "That’s why we tell folks to maintain control of your pet anytime you’re around water."
He added that alligators do not typically go up on land to go after their prey because they are more comfortable in the water.
Sea Pines Plantation has been issued nuisance tags and permits, according to Chappelear. This allows them to remove any alligators as they see fit.
He could not say whether the alligator involved had a reported history of aggression.
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