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Woman killed by gator on Kiawah Island was 'fascinated,' took pictures before attack

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An alligator protects her nest from researchers at Georgetown's Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center on June 26, 2019. On Friday, May 1, 2020, a woman was killed after an alligator dragged her into a pond on Kiawah Island. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

Cynthia Covert was waist deep in a pond behind her friend's home on Kiawah Island clutching a rope as her friends tried to get her away from the alligator that dragged her into the water. 

As her friends pulled, she calmly said, "I guess I won't do this again," according to a supplemental report released Tuesday by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. 

Moments later, the alligator rolled. Covert, 58, went under.  

The supplemental report provides further details on South Carolina's third deadly alligator attack in four years. 

Covert, a Johns Island resident, was on Kiawah doing her friend's nails, the report said. The friend told investigators that Covert was "very talkative and acting strange."

The deputy asked what she meant by that and the friend replied, "that at the salon Covert acts very professional but today she was very relaxed and excited that her boyfriend was coming from Tennessee to visit."

Covert had a glass of wine but her friend wasn't sure if she had consumed any other intoxicants, the report said. 

"When Covert was doing her nails on the porch she saw the alligator in the pond and was fascinated by the alligator," the report said. "(She) stated after Covert was finished with her nails she went outside of the porch and was taking pictures of the alligator."

The friend was cleaning her porch when she saw Covert by the water, the report said. She started yelling for Covert to get back, but her cries were ignored. She yelled out that the alligator grabbed a deer from that spot "the other day."

Covert replied, "I don't look like a deer."

Then she moved to touch the alligator, the report said. 

At that point, the homeowner's husband ran down the stairs and tried to get to Covert, but the reptile had already grabbed hold of her left leg and started to pull her into the water, the report said. 

A neighbor, hearing the commotion, came to see what was going on and went back to his home to get a rope, which they threw to Covert to try to pull her out of the pond, the report said. 

By the time the alligator had Covert in waist-deep water and rolled, it was too late.

Deputies and firefighters arrived at the scene on Salt Cedar Lane and saw no movement, the report said. After about 10 or 15 minutes, Covert's body surfaced but the alligator still had hold of her leg and took her body back under. 

The alligator and Covert's body surfaced a few moments later and a deputy shot the reptile in the head with his 9 mm handgun, causing it to release Covert, the report said. 

Crews retrieved her body, which was intact and had severe wounds on the left leg, the report said. The alligator was shot several more times until it died and was brought to shore. 

Covert is the third person to die from an alligator encounter in the state, according to S.C. Department of Natural Resources records.

The death of a 90-year-old woman in July 2016 in a pond outside a West Ashley extended-care facility was the first alligator-related fatality on record in the state, according to DNR.

In August 2018, South Carolina’s second fatal alligator attack in two years occurred when a 45-year-old woman was killed at a resort community on Hilton Head Island.

When the body of an elderly man who'd been reported missing was discovered in a pond on Kiawah Island in June 2019 with bite marks, some feared the incident was another alligator-related fatality. 

But authorities later determined the man died of natural causes before the animal came upon his body. 

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

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