Search teams locate body of woman dragged by gator into Davie lake

DAVIE, Fla. (AP/WSVN) – State wildlife searchers have located the body of 47-year-old Shizuka Matsuki, a woman believed to have been dragged by an alligator into a Davie lake.

The body was found just before 10 p.m. on Friday at the Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, located on 5695 S.W. 52nd Ave.

Matsuki’s arm was previously found inside an alligator that was pulled from the lake where she disappeared and was presumed dead, according to a source close to the investigation. Police believe the woman had been dragged into the lake by an alligator while walking her dogs, Friday morning.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had shifted from search to a recovery mode after believing Matsuki to be deceased.

Davie Police said the witness told them the woman was walking her dogs before she was grabbed by the alligator, just before 10 a.m.

The witness told police she did not actually see the woman being dragged into the lake, but when she looked back, the woman was gone, and the dogs were still there, one of which had a gash on its side.

“One of them which had an injury, a fresh injury,” said Davie Police Detective Vivian Gallinal about one of the dogs identified as a pit bull.

The three dogs are now in custody of Broward Animal Care.

The victim’s brother was at the scene visibly distraught and awaiting answers.

He assisted investigators in confirming the arm belonged to the woman because of a distinctive tattoo located on the body part.

In a Sun Sentinel report, Davie Police Maj. Dale Engle said no divers could search the water until the alligator was captured.

The FWC responded to the scene with trappers and worked for hours to catch the gator.

They finally wrangled a 12-foot-long alligator around 2:45 p.m.

The alligator believed to be responsible for the attack was captured and killed. A necropsy of the alligator showed evidence that the gator had attacked Matsuki.

A man who claims to be a family friend said the victim’s husband is in Chicago and is rushing to the scene.

“He doesn’t even know if she’s still alive or not,” the man said.

The couple lives in Plantation and visit the park occasionally.

According to the woman’s friends, her husband had urged her not to walk her dogs near the lake because he had seen gators before.

Residents said this lake is a dangerous place to walk.

“It could have been one of us,” said Patricia Ramsaran. “It could have been me or my kids out here and an alligator out of nowhere.”

Ramsaran noted that there are many alligators in this lake but said there aren’t signs warning the public that these animals are in the area.

“There are plenty of gators in this lake,” she said. “I’m out here all the time with my kids and my husband. You can see them. They’re at least [8-foot], 9-foot alligators.”

Another resident said a ranger once told her about the dangers of walking near the lake.

“The first thing you think that a gator is going to grab you and grab your dog,” said Sharon Estupinan. “The ranger has told me be careful.”

Alligators and humans have crossed paths more and more in Florida, as people increasingly seek waterfront homes and recreation – but fatal attacks remain rare.

According to the FWC, the likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.2 million.

From 1948 to 2017, the commission has documented 401 people bitten by alligators, including 24 fatalities. The most recent death occurred in 2016, when a 2-year-old boy playing near the water’s edge at a Walt Disney World resort was killed.

Officials said an airboat was deployed in the lake throughout the night, and the search continued at sunrise. The area is closed to the public until further notice.

Wildlife officials say they are conducting an investigation into Matsuki’s death.

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