Woman killed in apparent alligator attack in South Carolina

(FILE) An alligator photographed last year at a preserve in Barataria, Louisiana.

A woman was killed Monday morning in an apparent alligator attack on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said.

Witnesses told investigators the woman was walking her dog near a lagoon in the coastal resort about 9:30 a.m. when she was attacked and pulled underwater by the animal, the sheriff’s office said. The attack happened off Wood Duck Road in Sea Pines Plantation, the sheriff’s office said.

Edward Allen, Beaufort County coroner, told CNN affiliate WSAV-TV, “Apparently, the dog got too close to the lagoon and the alligator attempted to attack the dog.”

As the woman made “an effort to save her dog, the alligator turned on her,” Allen said, adding that the gator grabbed hold of the dog’s leash and dragged the woman about 14 feet into the lagoon. The dog was not harmed.

Emergency responders found the woman’s body in the lagoon. Authorities identified her as Cassandra Cline, 45, of Hilton Head Island, the sheriff’s office said.

An autopsy is being conducted.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources responded to the scene. At that time, the alligator had been hooked and was in the process of being snared, WSAV reported.

The alligator was euthanized, WSAV reported, and a necropsy will be performed.

“It’s a very rare occurrence and one we hope we will not witness again,” said Allen.

Sam Chappelear, assistant chief of wildlife for the natural resources department, said this was the second fatal alligator attack in the state since 2016.

Alligator attacks on humans are rare but not unheard of in the Deep South. In June, a Florida woman walking her dogs was pulled into the water and killed by an alligator.

Shizuka Matsuki, 47, died at Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park in Davie, north of Miami, said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A 12-foot, 6-inch alligator was captured and destroyed, authorities said.

In a well-publicized attack in June 2016, a 2-year-old boy died after an alligator pulled him into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel.

By Ralph Ellis, CNN