A 12ft-long, 504lb alligator believed to have attacked and killed a 71-year-old Louisiana man in Hurricane Ida’s aftermath was captured with what appeared to be human remains in its stomach, local authorities said.
Timothy Satterlee Sr vanished on 30 August, while checking on the contents of a shed at his home in Slidell, Louisiana, as flood waters engulfed the area.
After his wife heard a splash, she discovered her husband being gripped in a “death roll” by a huge alligator.
By the time she could intervene, the beast had already ripped off Satterlee’s arm and rendered him unconscious.
She pulled him to the steps of their home and — with neither her phone nor 911 working — in a desperate move she climbed into a small boat in search of help.
But when deputies finally arrived, Satterlee wasn’t there any more.
“She just never thought in her wildest nightmares that she would get back and he’d be gone,” said Lance Vitter, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.
Satterlee’s disappearance set off a two-week search that ended on Monday, after an alligator was caught in a trap near where Satterlee had gone missing, the St Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
Agents euthanized and cut open the alligator, where they discovered “the upper parts of a human body”, according to Vitter.
“Once the alligator was searched, it was discovered to have what appears to be human remains inside its stomach,” the sheriff’s office said.
“Investigators will work with the St Tammany parish coroner’s office to verify those remains belong to Timothy Satterlee.”
The attack occurred the day after Ida made landfall as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US, amid what experts assess as the effects of human-induced climate change, making hurricanes more powerful and frequent.
The storm slammed Louisiana 16 years after Hurricane Katrina descended upon New Orleans, with Ida causing devastating flooding in some areas outside a new levee and floodgate system built in the years since Katrina in order to protect New Orleans itself, although leaving areas outside vulnerable. Almost a million people lost power and the intense heat in subsequent days was deadly.
The Satterlee home is not far from an area frequented by tourists who visit for swamp tours promising sightings of alligators and other wildlife, Vitter said.
Alligators do not usually attack humans unless the food they tend to have stashed has been displaced, as can occur during major storms, he said.
Satterlee was a pillar of his community in Slidell, volunteering at the local school and cooking for storm victims, Vitter said.
“He was a rare gem,” Erik Schneider, Satterlee’s friend, told the New Orleans Advocate.
“You need a friend, you need a favor, call Mr Tim. He’ll be there with whatever you need and whatever he can give.”