OCALA, Florida -- A diver working near a Central Florida tourist attraction was attacked Tuesday by a 12-foot, 500-pound alligator.
Pete Butt was conducting research on an aquifer for the St. Johns River Management District in the Fort King waterway near Silver Springs park in Marion County when he was attacked and bitten on the neck by the massive beast.
"He grabbed him by the neck and shoulder. Pete's a very large, very strong man who's been doing this over 25 years. He obviously fought his way out of it and survived," said Eric Hutcheson, a close friend of the victim.
READ: Police report on the attack (PDF)
PHOTOS: Gator captured after attacking man
Butt suffered lacerations and a possible broken jaw and was airlifted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where he was in fair condition after undergoing surgery. Joy Hill, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said he was conscious and talking after the attack.
"If anyone can survive it, Pete can survive it," Hutcheson said.
The massive alligator believed to have attacked the man was removed from the water around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and euthanized.
A colleague said Butt knew the alligator had lived there for more than 15 years but never showed any signs of aggression toward people.
"This same gator, he's been here all along, and he just finally got used to people," Hutcheson said.
Silver Springs, located in Ocala, is a park that offers guests river cruises, wildlife exhibits, rides and activities, botanical gardens and shopping and dining.
Wildlife officials initially said that the attack occurred in an attraction at the park.
10 Connects News and WKMG Local 6