A cigar-chomping Florida man pried his puppy from the jaws of an alligator in a fearless rescue last month that was captured on surveillance footage.
The video: Richard Wilbanks, 74, was smoking the stogie at his home in Lee County when he heard Gunner, his 3-month-old Spaniel, crying for help.
- Seeing that the alligator had dragged Gunner into his backyard pond, Wilbanks jumped into the water, pulled the predator out by its head and yanked apart its teeth so the puppy could escape.
- “Instinct just took over and adrenaline kicked in and I just went right into the water after the gator and Gunner,” Wilbanks told Fort Myers NBC affiliate WBBH.
- “He had the dog and he is covered in blood,” his wife, Louise Wilbanks, recalled to NBC News.
The video of Richard Wilbanks’ heroics made national headlines and went viral on social media, where the retiree was hailed as a “Gangster” and a “true legend” for saving both his dog and his cigar.
Wilbanks never bothered to report the incident from late October to authorities, and the Florida Wildlife Federation and the fStop Foundation only learned about it last week after collecting the footage from his property.