Previous Disney alligator attack victim has message for boy's family

- From his home in rural New Hampshire, Paul Santamaria is far removed from Walt Disney World and the disturbing memories that are attached to it.  But he says when he heard the news of a tragic alligator attack there this week, he was taken right back to that instant in 1986.

"It happened in slow motion," he recalled.  "The alligator came out of the water kind of sideways, swinging its head."

It's been 30 years, but the terror Santamaria felt at 8 years old is frozen in time

"I just remember how slow it seemed to be happening, I didn't feel any pain from it," he continued.

Santamaria says he was feeding the ducks at Disney's Fort Wilderness campground lake when an alligator erupted from the water's edge.

"It turned its head sideways and grabbed my leg.  From there, it started to thrash me around, pull on me, and try to get me into the water."

He says his sister grabbed his arms while his brother hit the 7-foot female gator.  The intense, violent tug of war ended when the alligator opened her mouth and let go.

"I was lucky enough to get away, but it's just a bad situation," he continued.

Santamaria was hospitalized for a week.  The gator's tooth was pulled from his thigh where it barely missed his femoral artery.

Thirty years later, the scars remain.

"For a long time as a little kid, I didn't sleep in my own room; I didn't like water."

So when Santamaria learned of another alligator attack -- on a toddler at the Grand Floridian Resort just across the water from Fort Wilderness -- he was heartsick and angry when he heard authorities say, "Disney has operated here now for 45 years and they've never had this type of thing happen before."

"It happened to me, 30 years ago," he said.  "It was disheartening to hear."

Santamaria says he wasn't able to discuss any legalities surrounding his attack including if he received a settlement or if Disney accepted responsibility. But he says he simply wants the parents of that toddler to know that what happened wasn't their fault.

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