HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- A South Carolina woman trying to protect her dog was killed by an alligator at a private resort, authorities said Monday. The attack occurred around 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.
Cassandra Cline, 45, of Hilton Head Island, was walking the dog along a residential area of Sea Pines Resort when she was attacked, state and local officials said. The 8-foot alligator was later found and killed, said David Lucas, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
"She was walking the dog near the lagoon and the alligator came out of the water and tried to get the dog," Lucas said. "The lady tried to rescue the dog and a maintenance worker ran over to help."
The alligator latched onto the dog's leash and engaged in a tug of war with the woman, authorities said. The dog was unharmed in the attack.
"It's common practice when we have an aggressive alligator like that, we put it down, but it will take some take some time to confirm it's the right alligator," said Capt. Robert McCullough of the Department of Natural Resources.
Alligator attacks on humans are extremely rare, Lucas said.
Since 1976, there have only been about 20 attacks on people in the state, he said. Until 2016, none of those attacks had been fatal. In 2016, a 90-year-old woman who wandered away from a Charleston assisted living facility and was found dead in a pond.
In June, a woman in Florida waswhile walking her dogs near a lake. Officials reportedly found an arm inside the reptile.
Blake Smith, 34, was leaving his house Monday morning when he saw police cars and firetrucks in the neighborhood.
"I waited for about 30 minutes, then I started hearing rumors about what happened down the road from here," Smith told The Island Packet newspaper. "It's odd because this is the first time we've heard about an aggressive alligator around a human in the five years that we've been living here."
Smith said that at times, alligators have been spotted in yards or pools, but Sea Pines quickly removed those animals. "They do a good job. This is just a sad incident," he said. "I have a young son, so it's kind of concerning to see something like this could happen."
The private resort is located in the southern third of Hilton Head Island, located along 5,000 oceanfront acres, according to the company website.
"We ask that the community respect the needs of the investigators and privacy of the victim's family and neighbors," Sea Pines Resorts said on Facebook. "We are shocked and heartbroken over this loss and are praying for Ms.Cline's family and loved ones during this difficult time."