Wed, Dec 24, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Australian teens tell of day-long crocodile ordeal

AFP , Darwin, Australia

The teenage survivors of a crocodile attack in outback Australia told yesterday how they clung to a tree for almost a day while the giant reptile that killed their friend circled beneath them.

Nineteen-year-olds Shaun Blowers and Ashley McGough were riding their quad bikes with Brett Mann on Sunday when they decided to clean themselves off on the banks of the Finnis River, 40km south of the Northern Territory capital Darwin.

Blowers said Mann, 22, slipped into deep water and his companions were trying to help him back to shore when the 4m saltwater crocodile attacked.

"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," he told reporters.

"We were looking around for Brett [but] didn't hear a thing, didn't hear a scream, no splashing or anything. Two minutes later the croc brought Brett to the surface and pretty much showed him off to us and off he swam."

With the pair still stuck up the tree growing mid-stream in the river, the crocodile returned.

"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," Blowers said.

He said they remained perched in the tree for 22 hours, checking on each other through the night to ensure neither had fallen asleep.

Eventually the noise of a police rescue helicopter scared off the crocodile.

The pair were airlifted from the tree and taken to Royal Darwin Hospital and treated for shock and hypothermia.

Blowers said they had not yet come to terms with their ordeal.

Police spokeswoman Erica Sims said police and wildlife officers were searching for the crocodile and Mann's body.

Mann is the eleventh person since 1982 killed by the saltwater crocodiles that infest northern Australian rivers and estuaries.

The most recent victim was a 24-year-old German tourist taking a break in a Northern Territory national park in October last year after surviving the Bali terrorist bombing.

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