Cassandra Cline has been identified as the woman attacked and killed by an alligator on Hilton Head Island. The attack happened around 9:30 a.m. Monday, August 20. The alligator reportedly went after her dog and Cline was killed trying to protect it.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Cline Was Seen Walking Her Dog Near the Lagoon When the Alligator Attacked
A maintenance worker told deputies he saw Cline walking her dog near a lagoon at the Sea Pines Plantation, a gated community on the island. The lagoon was located near the golf course. She was reportedly walking close to the water’s edge and was not on a sidewalk. There were signs posted nearby warning about alligators.
The worker told the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office that he saw the alligator attack and ran over to help. The gator reportedly first got ahold of the leash. As Cline tried to save her dog, she was dragged underwater. First responders from the Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue rushed to the scene and got Cline out of the water. But she died from her injuries there at the scene.
Cline’s neighbor, Thomas DiMaio, told the Associated Press that she walked her dog every day along their street. He said she owned a vacation home in Hilton Head and traveled there often from her permanent home in New York state. DiMaio told the AP, “She didn’t have children. The dog was her child, I guess.”
2. Officials: It Appears Cline Was Trying to Protect Her Dog From the Alligator
Sam Chappalear of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources told local news outlet the Island Packet that it appeared the alligator was going after the dog. Alligators are not typically aggressive toward humans, but will not hesitate to go after a small animal. Cline was trying to protect her pet, but was no match for the reptile. The dog escaped unharmed.
Neighbors told the AP it is normal to see alligators around the community, especially near golf course lagoons. Pet owners are careful to keep their dogs on leashes and away from the water.
The Beaufort County Coroner, Edward Allen, identified Cline as the victim. She was 45 years old. Her husband was out of town at the time of the attack. Deputies say a forensic autopsy will be conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina on Wednesday to determine the precise cause of death.
3. The Alligator Was ‘Located and Dispatched’ After the Deadly Attack
The alligator was reportedly about 8-feet long. The sheriff’s office put out a statement that officials located the alligator believed to have attacked Cline. The reptile was “located and dispatched.” According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, it is common practice to euthanize aggressive alligators. Anyone with questions about that process is encouraged to call the department.
Residents and visitors to Hilton Island Island are warned to be vigilant about freshwater alligators and to never feed them. Gators on Hilton Head Island can reportedly average about 13 feet long and weigh half a ton. An 8-foot alligator is considered mature.
There are reportedly about 100,000 alligators living in South Carolina waters.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the odds of being killed by an alligator in the United States are very small. Based on data compiled between 2001 and 2013, humans were far more likely to be killed by bees, cows or dogs than by alligators, sharks or bears.
4. Cline Was a Resident at Sea Pines
Sea Pines Living confirmed on Facebook that Cassandra Cline owned a home in the community. The organization wrote, “We ask that the community respect the needs of the investigators and privacy of the victim’s family and neighbors. We are shocked and heartbroken over this loss and are praying for Ms.Cline’s family and loved ones during this difficult time.” The community promised to keep residents and guests updated about the investigation.
Facebook users have responded with shock to reports of the deadly attack. Many expressed well-wishes to the victim and her family.
Kaleb Lippert wrote, “Very unfortunate and sad. May her soul rest in peace.”
Jeff Esposito posted, “Worst nightmare. Very sad story.”
Tricia Johnson Blakney shared, “My husband and I were just in Hilton Head this weekend and noticed all the alligator warnings. We made comments to each other that if we’re not on top of the food chain, than that’s an area we won’t go. Sort of laughed about it. Then this. Certainly no laughing matter. Prayers to her family.”
Dawn Fells commented on how many alligators there are in the Hilton Head area. “I was just there all last week with my family. We had an alligator in the lagoon just 4 feet from our backyard pool. The warning signs are there for a reason – they are dangerous wild animals . God bless her family during this time.”
5. Alligator Attacks Are Historically Uncommon in South Carolina
Alligator attacks are rare in South Carolina. The SC Department of Natural Resources says there has been just incident in the last four decades, and it’s unclear whether an alligator caused that death. Department spokesman David Lucas told ABC News that in 2016, a woman wandered away from a nursing home in Charleston and was later found dead in a pond. She had wounds consistent with alligator bites. But it was not determined whether an alligator had attacked her, or bitten her after falling into the water.
Wildlife biologist Jay Butfiloski said in an interview in 2017 that non-fatal alligator attacks are also very rare in South Carolina. He told the Island Packet that the Department of Natural Resources was aware of 20 incidents since 1976.