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Animal trainer saved in alligator attack after bystander leaps on reptile's back

The Utah attack occurred during a child's birthday celebration.
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An animal trainer who was attacked by an alligator during a child’s birthday celebration in Utah over the weekend was saved in a bold rescue, with a bystander leaping onto the reptile’s back and helping subdue the animal.

The trainer, Lindsay Bull, told NBC affiliate KSL she was feeding the 8 1/2-foot male alligator at Scales and Tails in suburban Salt Lake City, the educational and entertainment company where she’s worked for nearly four years, when the attack occurred Saturday.

Bull said she’d planned on feeding the reptile, Darth Gator, and had opened his enclosure when he began acting aggressively. She grabbed under his lower jaw and pushed him back — “something I’ve done lots of times before,” she told the station — when he pushed back.

“I can’t tell you exactly what happened,” she said, but the gator snatched her hand and “really bit down.”

In a cellphone video of the attack, Bull is seen entering the enclosure — a move that she told KSL was designed to keep Darth Gator from biting off a “chunk” of her arm — and briefly wrestling with the animal. Eventually, she wrapped her legs around him.

Moments later, a man attending the event, identified by Scales and Tails as Donnie Wiseman, can be heard asking Bull what he wanted her to do.

Bull said that Wiseman had earlier told her that he had worked with an 18-foot rock python, so she told him: “If you can get on his back, go on his back.”

Wiseman can be seen jumping on the alligator’s back and helping subdue the animal. Roughly a minute later, with Wiseman still atop Darth Gator, Bull managed to remove her hand. Another person attending the event can be seen pulling her from the enclosure.

Wiseman remained on top of the alligator for about another minute. Then, he leapt out of the enclosure.

Bull called Wiseman a hero, but added that she didn’t want people to think the gator was a “mindless killing machine.”

“What happened was an accident,” Bull said. “I’m so much more to blame than Darth Gator.”

The owner of Scales and Tails, Shane Richins, said she suffered an injury to her tendon and bone chip but is recovering.