'I zigged when I should have zagged': The terrifying moment alligator handler almost has his arm ripped off

An alligator handler almost had his arm torn off in front of horrified onlookers during a show in Florida.

Jeff Quattrocci, 45, admitted he made a near-fatal error when he jumped on an 8ft-long alligator's back during a public event in New Port Richey, Florida, on Sunday.

His terrifying ordeal was caught on camera by members of the audience.

Mr Quattrocci, who has been attacked 13 times during his 17 years' experience as a handler, need 36 staples and 22 stitches to his right arm.

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He showed off his battle wounds on U.S. TV's The Early Show this morning.

'The alligator just immediately grabbed my arm and started shaking me around,' he said.

'I jumped wrong, it was a total human error. When I jumped on the back of the alligator the positioning was wrong.

'He's a very quick, high-level alligator, I consider the highest level alligator.

'I just basically mistimed my jump and you saw what happened.

'I basically stuck my arm in his mouth. It was a mistake. I zigged when I should have zagged.

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'When you jump on the back of an alligator you can't hesitate. You have about an eighth of a second to make your decision and if it's wrong you see what happens.

'I haven't been bitten in ten years so it's an eye opener and I'll learn from it.

'I was in total survival mode. I knew exactly what happened when it happened and I was just trying to maintain my cool.

'He went into a death roll with me, I actually rolled with him once.

'When people ask me how I got my arm out of his mouth I have no idea. An alligator like that will hold onto you all day long, it's the highest level of gator that's never been handled.

'Luckily he didn't get my tattoo, I was pretty happy about that.

'You can see where his mouth was - he clamped down a few times. After he clamped down the first time I felt him bite down on me and I tried to pull my arm out of his mouth and he clamped down on me again.

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'After that it's kind of a blur. I just remember basically trying to save my arm from getting torn off.'

Despite being shaken by the traumatic episode, Mr Quattrocci said he won't give up handling the vicious reptiles.

'I still feel like the master, I just made a mistake,' he said. 'I'm going up to the 10,000 show mark.

'I'm probably looking at six weeks off, but I've got to get back on that horse and that's what I plan on doing.

'I choose to handle wild alligators considered nuisance that have gotten a little too close to people, probably chasing someone's dog around.

'A true wild alligator, a true alligator show.'

Watch footage of the attack and Mr Quattrocci's appearance on The Today Show:

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