Shizuka Matsuki is the woman who disappeared after an alligator was seen dragging her into a lake in Florida on Friday morning. She had been seen out walking her dogs, when a resident reported that they later saw the dogs alone, refusing to leave the area near the lake. Her body was found late Friday evening. Here’s what we know so far about Matsuki and what happened. This is a developing story.
1. Shizuka Matsuki Was Attacked at Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, Where People Often Walk & Sometimes Even Swim
Authorities identified the woman who was attacked by the alligator as Shizuka Matsuki, 47. The horrifying event happened Friday morning at the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, west of Florida’s Turnpike, off Southwest 52nd Street, ABC 10 reported. The attack happened at North Lake, one of two lakes at the park. The park is surrounded by homes and people often go walking with their dogs in the area, children sometimes even swim in the lakes, and there’s even a rope swing there, CBS reported. The park is near Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Miami. You can see a map of the location of the park below:
You can see the alligator suspected of attacking her in the video above. Officials briefly lost sight of the alligator but later caught it, WSVN reported.
Resident Edwin Gomez saw the alligator at the park the day before, CBS reported. “I saw the gator yesterday, it responds in a natural way,” he said. “It’s sad to hear someone got hit by the gator.”
2. A Witness Saw Matsuki Being Dragged Into the Pond by the Alligator
Matsuki, who is from Plantation, had been walking her two dogs when the terrible tragedy happened. A witness called the police and told them they saw an alligator attacking Matsuki and her dogs, and dragging Matsuki into the pond around 9:45 a.m. on Friday, WFLA reported.
Another witness, who has not been named, said she saw a woman walking her dogs in the park. Then she saw the dogs by themselves a short time later.
Police said one of the dogs had a large, fresh wound. Police said that her dogs refused to leave the pond as divers searched for any signs of the woman, CBS News reported. A witness said that the dogs were barking near the water, but Matsuki was gone. The dogs were temporarily put in animal control’s care.
This was not the first time Matsuki had walked her dogs in the area. She often took them for walks around the same time of day and sometimes let them swim in a canal on the southwestern end of her Isla del Sol neighborhood, the Miami Herald reported.
3. The 12-Foot Alligator Had an Arm & Body Parts in Its Stomach
The 12-foot, 6-inch alligator was later trapped, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman said in a press conference. An arm and other body parts were found in the alligator. The alligator was euthanized. Officials said they believe Matsuki is dead, and recovery efforts will continue.
Residents in the area said that alligators were known to be in the water, and they wouldn’t let their dogs walk without a leash because of this. Another woman said that her poodle vanished near the lake on Christmas and she suspected the dog had been eaten.
In an official statement, Florida Fish and Wildlife wrote: “The victim of this tragic incident has been identified as Shizuka Matsuki, 47 YOA, of Plantation, FL. This tragedy is heartbreaking for everyone involved, and our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim at this time… A 12-foot, 6-inch alligator was removed from the lake by an FWC contracted trapper. After an initial necropsy, evidence was found that indicates that the victim of this incident was bitten by the alligator that was captured earlier today. The FWC believes that the victim is deceased and will continue recovery effort on the lake with local authorities. This tragedy is heartbreaking for everyone involved, and our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim at this time.”
4. Matsuki Is Married, Has an Adult Son, & Her Husband Was Trying to Get a Flight Home After Hearing the News
Matsuki and her husband have walked their dogs in that park before, family friend Jim Borrelli told Fox 10. They didn’t live in the neighborhood, but often liked to find new places to walk their dogs and were often seen in the area. Friends did say that she had stopped taking her dogs out as often recently, and her neighborhood’s HOA had sent out a warning about alligators just days earlier. In fact, two days before the attack, a neighbor found a different alligator on her porch, the Miami Herald reported.
Borrelli said that Matsuki’s husband was out of town and trying to find a way to fly home after finding out what happened on Friday. The husband called and asked Borrelli to break the news to their son, who is in his 20s and lives in New York.
Friends of Matsuki said that she was a wonderful woman who loved to cook.
5. Despite the Popularity of the Area, Residents Say It’s a Dangerous Lake & Were Warned About It Days Earlier
Despite the fact that children have been seen swimming in the lake from time to time, residents say it’s a dangerous area, WSVN reported. One resident said: “There are plenty of gators in this lake. I’m out here all the time with my kids and my husband. You can see them. They’re at least [8-foot], 9-foot alligators.”
Amy Behm checked into the park on Facebook just a few hours before Matsuki was attacked, and warned residents about the alligator:
Trina Gonzalez, who lives in Davie, told the Sun Sentinel that the area is dangerous. She and her son were fishing at the lake when an alligator swam up to the bank. Her son threw bread into the water for the fish, and the alligator got the bread. They never returned again.
In fact, Matsuki’s own gated community had received a warning about the area just two days before the attack, the Miami Herald reported. Their HOA sent letters to homeowners advising them to watch for alligators in the canals around the Isla del Sol neighborhood, after a neighbor found a different gator on her porch.
The HOA’s warning letter included a photo of the alligator on the porch and the note: “Please use caution around the boat ramp and anywhere in the community; we live surrounded by water in Florida and need to exercise caution with our families and pets, mindful that alligators, snakes and other wildlife may be in the area. … Thanks for being alert to your surroundings…. If you or a member of your household see wildlife that should not be in the community, please contact the police and the Alligator Hotline 1-866-392-4286. The South Florida Wildlife Care Center also has a list of useful agency contacts at 954-524-4302. Thanks for being alaert to your surroundings.”
Jeff Pohlman, assistants park director, told the Sun Sentinel that the city had hired three trappers in the last 18 month to two years to catch an alligator seen at the lake, but they hadn’t been successful. A gator hadn’t been seen there for a month, he said, but from the Facebook post above, it seems that some people may have seen the alligator more recently than that. Behm said she saw the alligator two days before Matsuki was attacked.
Fatal alligator attacks in Florida are still rare. The Wildlife Commission says that the likelihood of a serious injury from an unprovoked alligator attack is about 1 in 3.2 million. From 1948 to 2017, 401 people were bitten by alligators and 24 died. A recent death was highly publicized in 2016, when a two-year-old boy was killed by an alligator while playing at Walt Disney World Resort. In 2007, a 36-year-old man died when he swam across a pond in Miami and an alligator drowned him at the Miccosukee Indian Reservation. In May 2006, a 28-year-old woman was killed by an alligator at North New River Canal, the Sun Sentinel reported.
This is a developing story.