Alligator attack suspected in senior living resident death

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(Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)
(Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

A South Carolina senior living community resident died last week after apparently being attacked by an alligator; her body was found in a retention pond adjacent to the community where she lived.

Bonnie Walker, a 90-year-old resident of Brookdale Charleston, was reported missing on the morning of July 27. Police divers found her body in the pond a few hours later.

Coroner Rae Wooten ruled Walker's death an accident and said the cause was “multiple sharp and blunt-force injuries” consistent with those made by an alligator.

“It is likely that the decedent slipped, fell down a steep embankment or otherwise landed in the water, attracting the attention of the alligator,” she said in a statement provided to McKnight's Senior Living. The investigation is continuing, Wooten added.

Brookdale Charleston offers assisted living and memory care services.

The incident marks the first known human fatality due to an alligator in the state, according to South Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert McCullough. The department captured and destroyed the reptile, he said.

“We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Ms. Walker's family, as this loss is felt throughout Brookdale Charleston,” Brookdale said in a statement to McKnight's Senior Living. “We are saddened by the situation, and senior leadership is supporting our residents and associates during this time. Brookdale Charleston continues to cooperate with local police and with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and appreciate their work throughout the investigation.”

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has posted alligator-related safety tips on its website.

Not the first this year

The incident in South Carolina is not the first one in the United States involving a senior living community and an alligator this year.

In June, an employee of Florida Presbyterian Homes, a continuing care retirement / life plan community on the shores of Lake Hunter in Lakeland, FL, called the local police department to report that an alligator in the lake had a body in its mouth.

A nine-foot-long alligator was captured by a trapper working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to the police department's Facebook page, but police weren't sure whether it was the same reptile that had been seen by the caller.

Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary B. Gross, via Twitter, later identified the victim as Richard Zachary Taylor, a 72-year-old homeless man. Police were unsure whether the alligator killed Taylor or found his body after he had died.

Alligator attacks are more common in the Sunshine State than in any other state, according to statemaster.com. Florida has seen 337 alligator attacks, including 17 fatal ones, since 1948, according to the site.

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