Daryl Elder helped to save James R. Swanson from drowning, Titusville, Florida, April 16, 1997. In a wildlife refuge, Swanson, 50, was the driver of an automobile that left the highway, entered an adjacent canal, and began to submerge in the murky water, which was five feet deep. Traveling behind Swanson, Elder, 35, lead technician, and a co-worker saw the accident and stopped at the scene. They called out to Swanson as they waited for him to emerge from the car, and when he did not, Elder entered the water and waded toward the vehicle, which was about 30 feet from the bank. En route, he saw a seven-foot alligator swimming in the vicinity of the car. Elder paused momentarily, then quickly swam the remaining distance to the car. He mounted it and attempted both to open its doors and kick out a side window. With a hammer that his co-worker had secured, Elder broke out the rear window on the driver’s side then attempted to unlock the driver’s door. Despite the alligator remaining in the canal in the immediate vicinity, Elder’s co-worker also entered the water and waded and swam to the car. After he unlocked the driver’s door, he and Elder opened the door; the car instantly sank to the bottom of the canal, submerging Swanson. With difficulty, Elder and his co-worker freed Swanson from the car. They returned him to the bank, the alligator remaining in close proximity. Swanson required hospital treatment, and Elder sustained a laceration to his hand, from which he recovered. A wildlife officer shot and killed the alligator to allow safe access to the vehicle.
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