A man who had his arm bitten off by an alligator in Lake Manatee has miraculously survived after spending three days in the Florida swampland eating flowers while trying to make his way back to civilisation.
43-year-old Eric Merda had been shutting down a sprinkler system at work before deciding to go for a walk in the woods at the end of his shift, leaving his phone in his pickup truck.
When the sun began to set he became disorientated in the thick brush and thought that, despite the threat of alligators, it would be a good idea to take a shortcut back to his truck by swimming across Lake Manatee. A swim he thought would take 15 minutes.
Mr Merda quickly realised that the swim was much further than he first anticipated and noticed that he was not alone in the water, he described it as "not the smartest decision a Florida boy can make."
He had taken off his shorts, shirt, and work boots as they were weighing him down in the water when he saw the eyes of an alligator staring straight back at him. Mr Merda told the Washington Post that "she grabbed my forearm from the outside and snapped it back."
He attempted to fight off the alligator but the strength of the animal forced him underwater. "It tried to drown me a few times. Three times we went under. I had an arm around the gator, the gator had its mouth on my arm, and I just kicked, kicked, kicked."
Mr Merda described how when he made it back to the surface for the third time, "that's when the gator did the death roll and took off with my arm. It was ripped off between shoulder and elbow."
Luckily for the 43-year-old, the alligator did not return after swimming away with his arm. He made it to shore, bleeding heavily, completely naked, and with no way of calling for help.
For the next three days, Mr Merda drank marsh water he filtered through his hands, and ate flowers, while staggering through the thick undergrowth, eventually finding a concrete structure to sleep on.
Although the wound just below his right shoulder stopped bleeding, it was now attracting flies.
In a report with the Washington Post, Mr Merda said: "The pain was absolutely excruciating. I mean, I didn't stop screaming. The whole three days, screaming. "I had a bone sticking out of my arm, and I was using my nub to push brush aside to get through it. I had to. You've got to survive, man."
Mr Merda recalled how he had seen an empty beer bottle on a dirt track, and followed it up to a fence, where he found a man standing by a truck.
The man got him medical assistance and he was flown to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where surgeons amputated what was remaining of his arm and kept him under observation for three weeks.