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Woman warned by friend moments before fatal Kiawah Island alligator attack, report states

American Alligator.JPG (copy) (copy)

An American alligator pokes its head out of the swamp at Caw Caw Interpretive Center on July 9, 2019 in Ravenel. On Friday, May 1, 2020, authorities responded to a report of an alligator attack on Kiawah Island. A woman, later identified as 58-year-old Cynthia Covert, was killed in the attack. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

A woman who was killed by an alligator on Kiawah Island on Friday ignored repeated warnings by her friend to not get close to the carnivorous reptile, according to an incident report released Monday.

Cynthia Covert, a 58-year-old Johns Island resident, died in the attack near Salt Cedar Lane, authorities said.

An autopsy determined that Covert drowned and the death was ruled accidental, according to Charleston County Coroner Rae H. Wooten.

According to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office incident report, deputies spoke with a witness who said she was Covert's friend. 

Covert saw an alligator in a pond behind her friend's home on Salt Cedar Lane and wanted to get closer, the report said. 

The friend told deputies that Covert was on the back steps of her home and eventually moved down toward the pond.

"(She) kept yelling for her friend to get away and saw her friend was about four feet from the edge of the water when the big alligator came up and attacked her friend," the report said. 

The friend's husband grabbed a shovel while Covert's friend called 911, the report said. The husband tried to hit the alligator in a bid to make it release Covert, but those efforts were not successful. 

The alligator dragged Covert under the water, the report said. 

"She stated her friend never screamed," the report said. 

At the scene, deputies saw the alligator and Covert surface briefly before going under again, the report said. 

When the alligator surfaced again, a deputy opened fire, hitting the reptile four times, the report said. 

Firefighters then were able to pull Covert back to land, but she was unresponsive and was declared dead. The alligator's remains were pulled from the water and turned over to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. 

Covert was an animal lover, often promoting fundraisers for rescue organizations and sharing stories about people and their pets on social media. She worked as a stylist at Prime Cuts Salon on Seabrook Island, according to her Facebook page.

She’s the third person to die from an alligator encounter in the state, according to SCDNR 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.

In June 2019, the body of an elderly man who had been reported missing was discovered in a pond on Kiawah Island with bite marks. Alligators were known to be active in that area. Investigators later determined the man died of natural causes before the alligator came upon his body.  

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

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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