Bill Hedden, 59, remains in critical condition at the Medical University of South Carolina today after his arm was completely ripped from his body by a 12-foot alligator while he was snorkeling in Lake Moultrie.

Though Hedden’s intact limb was retrieved from the belly of the reptile after it was shot and killed by authorities, family members reported yesterday that doctors were unable to reattach it. Alligator2l1709_468x330

“The first order of Bill’s care has been to stop the bleeding and save his life. His surgeons and health care team are determining the next steps in his care at this time,” the family said in a statement Monday. “We are in good spirits and thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.”

Though the incident was admittedly grisly and tragic, Hedden turned out to be extremely fortunate, at least in one regard.

Emergency medical personnel said the gator victim might have easily bled to death had he not stumbled ashore where a group of picnickers–five of whom were nurses—iced his wound and kept him conscious until paramedics arrived.

One of the picnickers, Jerome Bien, said he followed Hedden’s blood trail to the lake, where he saw the gator with victim’s arm in its mouth.

“His arm was clean off the socket.” Bien said.

Wildlife officials said it could be the worst such attack ever recorded in South Carolina.

“To my knowledge this is the worst case scenario we’ve had in the state,” said Sam Chappelear, wildlife regional coordinator for the S.C. Natural Resources Department.

Note to Newshounders: The accompanying photo was found among others posted on a variety of blogs and Web sites, and was evidently taken by a person at the scene. I have no reason to question its authenticity.