HILTON HEAD ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – For only the second time in South Carolina’s history, an alligator is responsible for a person’s death.
Cassandra Cline, better known as “Sassy” to her family and friends was just 45 years old when she died in an alligator attack on Monday.
Cline was walking her border collie near a lagoon in Sea Pines Plantation where she lived. Authorities say a nine-foot-alligator grabbed her dog’s leash. As she fought the gator and saved her pup, Cline lost that battle.
Her body was recovered by fire personnel.
“I cannot make any sense of what happened, none at all,” said Julia Meza, Cline’s mother. “None at all because she would never go near an alligator, never go near an alligator.”
Meza said her daughter, a former kindergarten teacher, was a “wonderful, giving person” who loved her students dearly.
Sea Pines was a second home for Cline. She lived in New York and taught kindergarten at George Johnson Elementary School in Endicott for 16 years.
“She was the sweetest kindest, most wonderful person,” said Dr. Suzanne McLeod, Superintendent, Union-Endicott Central School District. “You cannot imagine a more perfect person to teach kindergartners than Cassie.”
Many of Cline’s neighbors in Sea Pines said they felt the same way, even if they did not know her well.
While the alligator was captured and euthanized, experts believe there is a lesson to learn from this tragedy.
Alligator sightings are common on Hilton Head and in the Sea Pines neighborhood, as well as warnings for them.
Signs are posted throughout the neighborhood and in Hilton Head Island’s golf courses, ponds and lagoons.
But as Monday’s incident shows, alligators are animals, and anything can happen.
This is nesting season for alligators, which makes the reptiles even more aggressive and dangerous. It’s also a time to remember never to feed alligators, as it takes away their fear of humans.
“Feeding a gator, he loses his god gift of fearing man,” said Joe Maffo, Critter Management alligator wrangler. “He has a built-in ability to stay away from man. If we throw our arms like we are throwing something into the water he should not come toward us.”
There have only been three previous alligator attacks this past decade in the Lowcountry.
A 90-year-old woman in Charleston was found dead with apparent alligator wounds. And a 77-year-old golfer was pulled into the water on Fripp Island by an alligator.
He was able to escape but lost his arm.
An autopsy will be performed Wednesday in Charleston to determine an exact cause of death for Cline.