Bloomington man survives crocodile attack in Guatemala

Chris Waggoner

Bleeding on an operating table while doctors, who speak a foreign language you don't understand, put stitches in your head is no way to spend your dream vacation.

For 30-year-old Chris Waggoner who found himself in that position three years ago in Guatemala, it was better than the alternative.

"Most people don't get eaten by anything," Waggoner explained.

Waggoner, though, almost did, while taking a swim in lake just before sunset in Guatemala.

"I was on vacation, skinny dipping. You just can't get anymore relaxed. Boom," he remembered.

Moments later, Waggoner's head was in the mouth of a crocodile that was pulling him underwater.

"The first thing it, like, tried to do, it was like super strong. Just, like, really snapping me hard," he said of the crocodile's jaws and strength.

The Indiana University graduate recalled having the most random thoughts while in the crocodile's mouth. 

"I was, like 'Man, I'm so much better at calculus than this crocodile is, but it's so much better at fighting underwater. It's just not even fair'," he remembered thinking.

Fair had nothing to do with it, though. The next few moments were about man versus nature in a life and death struggle.

"I tried to lift up and pry the teeth apart, which is not...does not work," Waggoner said. "But I ended up puncturing my hand, 'cause that was just my first instinct."

Waggoner still doesn't know how or why he got away and made it to shore.

"I have no idea. I have no idea why I survived," he said.

On the outside, the scar from Waggoner's battle is now hardly visible.

"My artery is, like, right there. So a little bit further off and that long fourth tooth would have punctured an artery," Waggoner explained, pointing to the back of his neck.

Right now, Waggoner calls Bloomington, where he went to college, home. He consults for Internet companies, reads math books and is writing one himself on math in the abstract.

Waggoner hasn't been bending over backwards to get back in the rat race, though. Before he traveled in Guatemala, he owned a pedicab business. He's still traveling and having close encounters with nature, like one last summer while hiking in North Dakota.

"I think there's something about like animals trying to mess with me," said Waggoner.

This time, it was a herd of buffalo stampeding just a few hundred yards away from Waggoner and his girlfriend.

"We could just, like, hear these 3,000-pound bodies just, like, going down where we just were, downhill, super fast," Waggoner recalled. "If we would have been there, we would have been trampled."

Life these days isn't always about Waggoner facing off with nature, though. Lately, he's been working on perfecting a cartwheel and learning to do a back flip. 

"We're all going to die at some point. I guess I just try to live my life so that I don't have regrets," he said.

Waggoner added that he has no regrets about taking that swim and almost becoming part of the food chain.

But would he do it again?

"No. I wouldn't get eaten by a thing again, if I can avoid it. Probably if I did it over, I wouldn't get away this time," he explained.

For now, Waggoner is just sticking with cartwheels.