A Pearl River boy took on a 10-foot alligator Saturday and has the marks to show for it.
The fight to survive sent 12-year-old Matthew Kelly to the hospital with serious bite marks from a battle that could have cost him his life.
"It wasn't painful because the adrenaline was going," Matthew said.
He felt the alligator clamp down on his leg and pull him under the water while he and his father were spear fishing about 30 yards offshore in Lake Pontchartrain near Little Woods.
"For him to have fought off an alligator that size and reach his hands in there and pull it off his leg is amazing," said his dad, Scott.
The gator's teeth left deep gashes in the child's left leg.
"We were going from one set of pilings to another and he was about 20 feet behind me," Scott said. "I was snorkeling in 3 or 4 feet of water. I heard him freak out, scream and holler and he said 'it's got me!'"
Matthew said he panicked and pried open the gator's jaws to free his leg. He said the gator surfaced and started heading back for him. His dad described the scene.
"About a 16-inch head of an alligator popped up and opened its mouth. He tried to crawl on top of me to get out of the water, which is understandable," Scott said.
Scott still had his fishing gun and an 8-pound sheepshead on the end of it. He watched for any sign of the gator in the water. The gator ended up snatching the fish and the gun. Scott got Matthew on his shoulders and escaped. It took 25 minutes to get to Slidell Memorial Hospital, where Matthew was taken to surgery.
He's on the mend and was set to be released Monday evening, but he may not return to school in Pearl River for a while. When he does, he has a lot to talk about.
Matthew is a student at Creekside Junior High - Home of the Gators.