A crocodile killed a 22-year-old man and then kept his body in its jaws while his two friends watched in horror from a nearby tree.
Shaun Blowers and Ashley McGough, both 19, recounted on Tuesday how the reptile snatched Brett Mann at Finniss River, which cuts through a flooded tropical wilderness about 50 miles southwest of Darwin in the Northern Territory on Sunday.
Blowers said the 13-foot saltwater crocodile also lunged at them, but they scrambled up a tree in the swollen stream. A police search party found them still in the tree 22 hours later.
The three friends had been riding quad bikes along a muddy trail, and stopped by the river to bathe.
Mann was swept away by a strong current. As his friends swam out to help, he was taken by a crocodile that had been lurking in the waters.
“We both jumped in and swam after him and we got in front of him and were leading him back to the bank,” Blowers said. “I went past the croc. I didn’t see it. Ashley screamed out ‘croc, croc’... we just swam to the nearest tree and straight up we went.
“We were looking around for Brett (but) didn’t hear a thing, didn’t hear a scream, no splashing or anything,” he said.
“Two minutes later the croc brought Brett to the surface and pretty much showed him off to us and off he swam.
“Five minutes later he was back stalking the tree around us. He just hung around us all night and pretty much all the next morning.”
A police helicopter took the two survivors to Darwin, where they were treated for shock and exposure.
Authorities Tuesday searched the river for Mann’s remains and for the man-eating crocodile.
Saltwater crocodiles are among the world’s largest reptiles. They became a protected species in 1971 after they were nearly wiped out over the last century. There are now an estimated 100,000 saltwater crocodiles and there have been growing calls for a reintroduction of limited hunting.
Last year a crocodile killed a 25-year-old German woman as she swam in the Northern Territories Kakadu Park.