A Northern California woman barely escaped with her life after a crocodile bit her leg and wouldn't let go at a Mexican resort, she said Tuesday.
The incident happened July 18 at the Marriott resort in Puerto Vallarta as the woman, Kiana Hummel, 18, and a friend went to the beach for a late-night dip.
That's when a 12-foot crocodile chomped down on her right leg and dragged her screaming into the water.
Hummel's friend and four good Samaritans fought the reptile to a draw before a hotel employee, armed with a hunk of wood, struck the crocodile. That forced it to finally let go, and Hummel was taken away to safety.
"I'm pretty grateful that people were there to help me," she said from her hospital bed at Marin General Hospital. "I don't think I would have gotten out" without them.
A witness, Sarah Laney, 34, a high school teacher from St. Louis, was with friends when she heard Hummel's screams and rushed to the beach to find Hummel's friend desperately trying to pull her to safety.
"It was really a tug-of-war. It was four or five times. We'd get her a foot out of water, and then it would pull her back in," Laney said.
Hummel recalled how determined the creature was.
"It didn't want to give up. It went for my right leg and pulled me under the water and then went for my left leg and pulled me back into the water again," she said.
With the tug-of-war going nowhere, the rescuers changed tactics.
"After about 30 seconds of re-evaluating the situation, we all decided we needed to start throwing things at it. It wasn't letting go," Laney said. "We were throwing shoes. We were throwing rocks. We were throwing anything we could find, but it wasn't anything big enough."
Laney, who was in Mexico to celebrate her completion of chemotherapy, said she shudders to think what would have happened had Hummel been alone that night or if the wood-wielding employee hadn't shown up.
"We go on the trip to celebrate life, and then, the last day, this happens," she said. "I can't stop thinking about it. Had we not been there, I just don't know."
Hummel had been set to start her freshman year at California State University, Sacramento this fall. She hopes to do the fall semester online and the spring term in a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.
The incoming college freshman said that she's grateful not to have lost a limb and that she will eventually walk again, despite serious muscle and tendon injuries.
"I'm mostly going to recover from all of this with time," she said.
This long road to recovery beats what could have been any number of devastating alternatives, her mother Ariana Martinez said.
"She managed to survive with no missing toes, no missing limbs, no broken bones, just massive muscle and tendon damage," said Martinez, a medical assistant at UCSF Medical Center. "Obviously a big chunk (of skin) has been taken out. We're still in the hospital now, and I'm not sure when she'll be discharged."
Hummel wants to major in kinesiology with hopes of becoming an occupational therapist someday, meaning these upcoming weeks in the hospital will amount to a measure of unwanted training.
This experience has taught Hummel to be patient with those she'll be treating someday and pick up on nonverbal cues.
"I realize with the amount of pain that I've been in, sometimes I'm not able to verbalize what I really want to say," she said.
Kerstin Sachl, a spokeswoman for Marriott properties of the Caribbean and Latin America, said: "We are aware of the incident."
"The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags were and are properly in place," she said in a statement. "We review our plans and procedures often and work closely with the appropriate authorities on an ongoing basis. Our staff is trained in how to respond to safety matters appropriately. We encourage all guests to be vigilant for their safety."