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'Swampmaster' Jeff Quattrocchi talks about alligator attack, aftermath, being called crazy

NEW PORT RICHEY

It has been a crazy few days for Jeff Quattrocchi, the "swampmaster" who was bitten and bloodied Sunday while handling an 8-foot American alligator. He was airlifted from the Cotee River Seafood festival in New Port Richey to the Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where wounds to his forearm and hand were stitched and stapled. Released from the hospital Monday, Quattrocchi, 45, of Orlando still needs to pack up the equipment from his disastrous show and retrieve his gators from a Seminole shelter.

On what went wrong:

"My jump was a little off, and the gator wasn't positioned correctly. I just didn't go the direction I was expecting to go. I basically just gave him my arm. … I knew as soon as I jumped I was in trouble."

On the bite:

"He crunched me. I moved my arm a little bit before he started his death roll; I felt that coming, so I rolled with him. That's the only thing that stopped him from snapping my arm or absolutely taking my arm off. … He had me solid, right in the back of his mouth, where all of his pressure is. He had me. He flat out had me. I was his for the moment."

On getting loose:

"I just remember ripping my arm out of his mouth; that's why my wounds are so open and gaping. … After I got my arm out of his mouth, he grabbed my left thumb for just a split second, and I was sure he had popped my thumb off. I was sure I'd look down and my thumb wouldn't be there. … It's a miracle I got out."

On what he was thinking:

"In my head I was thanking my grandmother, which is something strange, because she's dead. But it was Mother's Day, so I felt like someone was looking down on me."

On the aftermath:

"I was at a serious adrenaline level. I realized what had happened and regained my composure, and I remember apologizing to the crowd. … I had to secure my animal. I had to go over to him and battle him, get him by his tail and drag him over to his pen. That was kind of instinct."

On fear:

"I knew the mistake I had made. I knew what I had done. I was still not scared, nor terrified. I would do another show in an hour. I'd be hurting, and I probably physically couldn't. Mentally, I would. I'm not scarred, I'm not scared, it's just not like that. I respect the alligator."

On his last bite:

"I haven't been bitten in 10 years. My last bite of any significance was my (right) middle finger in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Bass Pro Shops. That has always been the scar I show. … This (on Sunday) was bite No. 13. I knew it was coming; I just didn't know how bad it was."

On treatment:

"I've got about 34 staples and about 24 stitches. There were three or four really big open wounds on my forearm and bicep that were about 3 or 4 inches … and five or six stitches on my left thumb. … I can move it (my arm), but not much. … It looks like my elbow is three times the size it should be, from the twist and roll."

On the hospital stay:

"The people at Bayfront Medical Center, the doctors and nurses there, were great. But I was complaining to get out. They really wanted to keep me one more night, but I just had to go. Your adrenaline's still rushing. I had things to do."

On the alligator:

"I had just got him. He was a wild gator — a trapper had caught him in a river and taken him to an alligator farm. … He was about $100 a foot (making him cost, in total, about $800). … He had a big head, a lean body. He was strong. He was fast. He had a lot of attitude."

On the alligators' names:

"I only name the ones to bite me. … Usually, you name them Snappy or something like that. … I named him Thank You. Thank You for not tearing my arm off."

On his next show:

"It was supposed to be this weekend in Texas (at the Pasadena Strawberry Festival) but more than likely it will be in July, performing for Music World Entertainment in Houston. … This looks like a six-week injury. … I'll heal up and go back to business."

On being called crazy:

"Well, that's a compliment if you're me. I'm not crazy. I'm educated. I'm the farthest thing from a toothless, shoeless, redneck, Cracker, 'yeehaw, doggy' type of guy. I'm just a little bit different. I like to think of myself as a professional athlete, public speaker kind of guy. … I handle the mean ones and let the gators speak for themselves."

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell @sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

'Swampmaster' Jeff Quattrocchi talks about alligator attack, aftermath, being called crazy 05/11/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 10:25pm]
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