Parents of boy killed by alligator in 1993 relate to latest alligator attack

Bradley Weidenhamer embraces a dog in 1992, the year before he died after being attacked by an alligator.

(CNN)When authorities announced that a 2-year-old boy had been grabbed Tuesday night by an alligator near a Walt Disney World resort hotel in Florida, few people understood the plight of the boy's parents quite like Donna and Gary Weidenhamer.

Boy's body found after alligator attack
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The Weidenhamers' 10-year-old son Bradley died when an alligator grabbed him and dragged him into the Loxahatchee River in Martin County, Florida, on June 20, 1993.
    "Obviously it's a horrible situation," Gary Weidenhamer said. "It brings back memories of the horrible situation we went through."
    "Losing a child is never easy, but when it's such a public way, it's even harder."
    What to do if you see an alligator

    • Always give these reptiles a respectful distance -- at least 10 feet -- and always leave them alone.
    • If you encounter an alligator outside its natural habitat, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline: 1-866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).
    • Alligators are nocturnal animals, more active during the night. After dark, avoid fresh and brackish bodies of water, though alligators sometimes lurk in salt water. Unprovoked bites will often occur at the edge of the water.
    • Never feed alligators; it encourages them to lose their natural fear of people.
    • Small animals, like pets, and small children are generally more at risk than large adults.
    • Female alligators protect their nests by hissing and opening their mouths; this does not mean they are preparing to attack.
    • Alligators under 4 feet in length are not considered a threat to humans.
    • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documented 383 unprovoked alligator bites between 1948 and 2016: 257 serious bites, with 23 resulting in death.
    • The frequency of serious bites is increasing at a rate of about 3% each year: one additional bite every four or five years.

    Bradley was on an end-of-season canoe trip with his parents and members of his Little League team, about halfway through a 7-mile trip when the group encountered several downed trees that blocked the river, Weidenhamer said.
    While the adults worked to move the trees so the group could pass, Bradley joined a small crowd playing and relaxing in the shallow water. An alligator attacked him, his father said.
    "The alligator took the boy's head in his mouth and pulled him underwater," Jim Huffstodt, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission spokesman, told media at the time.
    The commission was a precursor to today's Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
    Weidenhamer said he and Little League coach Miguel Estrada hit the alligator and struggled to pull the boy from its powerful jaws as others began beating the animal with canoe paddles.
    When they finally pried Bradley away from the alligator they placed his small body into a canoe, Weidenhamer said, and performed CPR as they raced to get help downriver where an ambulance took Bradley to a helicopter to Jupiter Hospital.
    But it was too late. Bradley was pronounced dead of massive head injuries, hospital officials told local media at the time.
    "For us, faith in God and our church and friends and relatives helped us get through that," said Weidenhamer.
    Such a violent death was hard to cope with, Donna Weidenhamer said, but it helped them re-evaluate what was important in their lives.
    "It makes you realize how important your family is. It puts it in perspective. How important it is to share your faith with people so they can be strong through challenging things in life," said Donna Weidenhamer.
    According to the Weidenhamers, authorities eventually caught and killed the alligator.
    "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Gary Weidenhamer said "You don't get over it. You learn how to deal with it."