HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina -- A 45-year-old woman was killed by an alligator in a popular vacation and golf destination.
The attack happened just after 9:30 a.m. Monday in a gated community on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
According to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, witnesses saw the woman being attacked by an alligator as she walked her dog near a golf course. She has been identified as Cassandra Cline.
Authorities said 45-year-old Cline was trying to protect her pet border collie when she died not far from her home.
"She was walking the dog near the lagoon and the alligator came out of the water and tried to get the dog," said David Lucas, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.. "The lady tried to rescue the dog and a maintenance worker ran over to help."
Both were trying to save the dog, but the alligator dragged the woman into the water, he said.
Thomas DiMaio, who rents a house across the street from the scene of the attack, said he heard shrieks while he was in the shower but thought they were a bird.
He went outside a half hour later to find a crowd gathering beside the road, where a bag of dog treats Cline had been carrying, one of her shoes and her hat dotted a trail leading to the water.
"It's really sad," said DiMaio, who often chatted with Cline as she walked her dog past the vacation home he's rented for several weeks in the Sea Pines Resort. "She didn't have any children. The dog was her child, I guess."
He said Cline and her husband divided their time between Hilton Head and their home near Syracuse, New York. DiMaio said he would see Cline and her dog walking two or three times daily, and the woman often carried a bag of treats she would feed to her pet.
"She was a very pleasant woman," DiMaio said. "Very friendly."
Emergency crews recovered Cline's body from the lagoon. Her dog was not harmed during the incident.
The alligator, believed to be about 8 feet in length, was located at the scene. Authorities said the alligator was "caught and disposed of."
Residents of the resort island off the coast near the South Carolina-Georgia line say alligators are a fairly common sight - especially in the water hazards dotting Hilton Head's golf courses.
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 wandered away from a Charleston assisted living facility and was found dead in a pond.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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Woman killed by alligator while walking dog near South Carolina golf course