Florida man Sean Thomas McGuinness found dead in possible alligator attack, police say

Florida man Sean Thomas McGuinness found dead in possible alligator attack, police say

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A Florida man believed to be searching for golf discs in a lake where alligators were swimming was found dead along the shoreline Tuesday with injuries related to the large reptiles, authorities said.

The man, identified by authorities Wednesday as 47-year-old Sean Thomas McGuinness, was found by a bystander who was walking a dog in John S. Taylor Park in Largo, Fla., not far from St. Petersburg, police said.

Largo police spokeswoman Megan Santo said in a statement to The Washington Post that “detectives believe the victim was looking for Frisbees in the water” in the late-night hours and “a gator is believed to be involved in the death.” Although Santo referred to Frisbees, those familiar with the park say McGuinness was probably looking for golf discs, which are similar to Frisbees, but are smaller.

Santo said the medical examiner will determine exactly how McGuinness died.

Attempts to reach McGuinness’s family Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

A woman was walking her dog by a lagoon. Then an alligator pulled her underwater, police say.

The lake where McGuinness’s body was discovered is near a disc golf course in John S. Taylor Park. Witnesses told police that McGuinness, who was transient, used to get in the lake — which has no-swimming signs — to find lost discs and sell them back to the park.

Those who frequent the park said it is not unusual to see people hunting for lost discs.

“These are people that are down on their luck,” 56-year-old Ken Hostnick told the Tampa Bay Times. “Sometimes they dive in the lakes, they’ll pull out 40 discs. You may sell them for five bucks a piece, and you may sell them for 10 bucks a piece, depending on the quality.”

Sydney Criteser, a Pinellas County spokeswoman, confirmed to The Post that McGuinness was known to park management and had been previously warned about entering the water to retrieve the discs. He was even threatened with a trespassing charge in late April, Criteser added.

Police said trappers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) responded to the scene Tuesday. Two alligators — one 8 feet long and another one 10 feet long — were captured, wildlife officials said in an emailed statement. Wildlife officials said initial necropsies, or animal autopsies, did not show evidence that the alligators were involved in McGuinness’s death, but the area is being monitored for others.

Authorities did not release any further details, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

What you need to know about alligator attacks, according to Jack Hanna

There are an estimated 1.3 million alligators living in Florida, usually in fresh water but sometimes in salt water, according to the FWC. Typically, alligators fear humans but when people feed them, they learn to associate people with food and may be more likely to attack, the commission said.

When alligators do attack, it is most often in and around water, the commission added.

“Bites on humans have occurred in a variety of water bodies, many of which are small and not regularly used by alligators. Although alligators can move quickly on land, they are not well-adapted for capturing prey out of the water. However, they can lunge at prey within a few feet of the shoreline,” it said.

Since 1948, there have been 442 instances in which alligators have bitten people in Florida, 26 of which resulted in death, according to the wildlife commission. But there has not been a fatal attack since 2019, it said.

The wildlife commission said people should beware of alligators when in or near fresh or brackish water in Florida, watching children and pets especially closely. People should also swim only during daylight hours — and never in areas with signage indicating swimming is prohibited, the commission said.

A person who is bitten by an alligator should fight back, “providing as much noise and resistance as possible,” the wildlife commission said.

“Hitting or kicking the alligator or poking it in its eyes may cause it to release its grip. When alligators seize prey they cannot easily overpower, they will often let go and retreat,” the commission said.

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