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Australian man frees his head from the jaws of a crocodile after he's attacked while snorkeling

Marcus McGowan said he was with his wife and friends off Cape York on Saturday when the croc bit his head.
Saltwater crocodile in Queensland, Australia.
A saltwater crocodile in Queensland, Australia.chameleonseye / Getty Images/iStockphoto

An Australian man suffered head injuries in a harrowing encounter with a crocodile in Queensland over the weekend.

Marcus McGowan was snorkeling with his wife and friends off Cape York on Saturday when he was attacked from behind, he said in a statement released Tuesday by the Cairns and Hinterland health service.

The crocodile, which McGowan believes was a juvenile, had its jaws around his head.

"I was able to lever its jaws open just far enough to get my head out," McGowan said. "The crocodile then attempted to attack me a second time, but I managed to push it away with my right hand, which was then bitten by the croc."

McGowan was taken to Haggerstone Island, where a friend, a fireman, administered first aid until an emergency helicopter arrived to take him to a nearby hospital. He said he was treated for lacerations to his scalp and puncture wounds to his head and hand.

Ultimately, McGowan said, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I live on the Gold Coast and am a keen surfer and diver, and understand that when you enter the marine environment, you are entering territory that belongs to potentially dangerous animals, such as sharks and crocodiles," he said in his statement.

McGowan has asked for privacy as he recovers.

Saltwater crocodiles, native to Australia, can grow up to 7 meters, more than 22 feet, according to the Australian Zoo. They can also hold their breath underwater for up to eight hours.

"They use the murkiness of the water to remain unseen before ambushing their prey, grabbing them with their powerful jaws and death-rolling them back into the water," the zoo said on its website.

Though the population of saltwater crocodiles has rebounded after years of poaching, they are still considered vulnerable in Queensland, the zoo said.

The last recorded attack by a crocodile was a nonfatal attack also around Cape York in February, according to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. The department has a record of attacks from December 1985 through March, with the last recorded fatal attack in the state occurring in February 2021.

"The Queensland Government is committed to a crocodile management program that delivers appropriate protection of public safety while enabling the ongoing survival of estuarine crocodiles in the wild," the department said on its website.