A FIREFIGHTER was mauled in the face by an alligator while swimming in a Florida lake.
Juan Carlos La Verde, 34, was preparing for an athletic competition when he was brutally devastated by the beast in Lake Thonotosassa.
The US Air Force veteran was left with serious injuries to his head and face and underwent six-hour surgery to repair his skull and jaw.
Juan, who serves as a firefighter and paramedic with Oldsmar Fire Rescue, was afloat on August 3 when the alligator struck.
The beast shredded his face – but despite his shocking injuries, Juan narrowly escaped its jaws.
He then frantically swam ashore and called the sheriff’s office for help.
He was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he spent more than a week in the intensive care unit.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sent a trapper to the lake and began an investigation.
Juan’s pal Kenney Ceron, who has started a GoFundMe page for him, said the firefighter was discharged yesterday – but has yet to undergo another operation.
He wrote: “He will need at least one operation in the future to replace the bone in his brain that they had to remove.
“He’s going to have his wires cut in a few weeks, too.
“I still can’t believe he’s out in just eight days but that’s just a true testament to God and how strong he is and when he wants something he works to get it.
“We have a long road ahead of us but thanks to our family, friends and everyone who has supported us in one way or another, he will get through it.”
Kenney said Juan, who is married, has always “dedicated his entire life to helping others” and entered several contests to raise money for charity.
His pal said Juan was training for a race for his own organization, Defeat X, and was filming a promotional video when he was attacked
It comes after a heartbreaking 911 call revealed an elderly man’s desperate attempt to rescue after a woman was killed by two alligators.
The 70-year-old retiree risked his own life to save the woman who fell into a canal near a golf course in Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission identified the victim as 80-year-old Rose Marie Wiegand.
A 911 call seen by ABC7 shows the man was playing the 6th hole at Boca Royale Golf and Country Club when he saw Wiegand fall in and tried to pull her out.
He then climbed ashore and called 911, asking for help, telling dispatchers, “I just couldn’t get through to them. I tried.”
He told operators he thinks Wiegand was cutting weeds around the water when the attack took place and claimed he didn’t see any alligators initially.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/5990934/firefighter-mauled-alligator-escape-beast/ Cruel injuries to a firefighter mauled by an alligator have been revealed after details of his escape from the beast’s jaws emerged