MARIN COUNTY, California -- What was supposed to be a relaxing getaway before starting college this fall turned into a real life nightmare for California 18-year-old Kiana Hummel, who was attacked by a 12-foot-long crocodile while vacationing in Mexico with a friend earlier this month.
The attack happened just before midnight at the Marriott resort in Puerto Vallarta.
Hummel described the attack from her hospital bed. She said she and her friend had decided to go for a late night swim at the resort, but they weren't even in the water when the crocodile emerged from the ocean, grabbed her right leg and pulled her into the water.
Sarah Laney, a bystander from St. Louis, heard Hummel scream. She and her friends ran to help.
"It was most definitely one of the craziest, scariest things I've ever experienced," Laney said. "Honestly, I will never forget it when the crocodile's head came above water. I just went into shock."
Hummel said she remained calm even as she got dragged under the water. She continued to hit the crocodile as hard as she could until it finally let go of her right leg. She said she had almost escaped when the crocodile grabbed onto her left ankle and dragged her back under.
"I just remember saying, 'Please don't leave me,'" Hummel recalled. "And I didn't think I was getting out that second time. That was just really bad."
Eventually, the group was able to get the crocodile to let go of Hummel and they were able to bring her to safety. Miraculously, she survived and didn't lose any limbs, although she does have extensive muscle and tissue damage all the way to the bones and is currently unable to walk.
Hummel's mother, Ariana Martinez, learned of the attack over Facetime from her home. She got on the next flight from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta.
"I'm on the phone with her, she's yelling, 'Get me an ambulance, get me an ambulance to the hospital,'" Martinez recalled of her daughter. "It took them forever."
According to Laney, who stayed with Hummel after the attack, it took 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Once it did, Martinez said the hospital demanded she pay thousands of dollars before giving any treatment.
In a statement, Marriott spokesperson Kerstin Sachl confirmed the crocodile attack and said, "The safety and security of our guests and associates are our top priority, and we can confirm that appropriate signage, as well as night patrolling and red flags were and are properly in place."
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"We review our plans and procedures often and work closely with the appropriate authorities on an ongoing basis," she continued. "Our staff is trained in how to respond to safety matters appropriately. We encourage all guests to be vigilant for their safety."
But Hummel, Martinez and Laney believe not enough was done by the hotel to warn guests that a crocodile could be in the ocean. They said they were not given a verbal warning and they only learned of the warning sign after the attack. They say it is small, mostly in Spanish and not lit up at night.
"Until that moment, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought a crocodile was on that beach. Ever," Laney said.
Laney's friend, Natalie, wrote a review of the hotel on Trip Advisor where she said: "I understand you don't want to 'scare' guests, but the following day, there should've been big YELLOW signs to warn of the attack...my group is TRAUMATIZED by this experience."
According to a Spanish-language news report, in 2018, another woman was also attacked by a crocodile on that same beach.
Hummel and Martinez hope by sharing this story it will serve as a warning to others.
"It could have ended so much differently," Martinez said. "That call could have been a totally different call."
Hummel remains hospitalized and is expected to undergo a second surgery this week. Doctors say she will have a full recovery, but it will take time. It's unclear if she will be able to work this summer.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Hummel with her expenses.