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Salt water crocodile attack at Blue Water Mangroves


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#41 Drew

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 09:10 AM

Thanks Lauren. I'd read about your encounter on the Kararu newsletter earlier this year. Sounds like an adventure you'd rather not repeat alone at least.
I guess new ground rules for diving in the area may be forthcoming with this incident.

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#42 Drew

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 05:15 PM

I just received an email from IUCNCSG, seems relocation would only be to farms or zoos. Looking at a Bali croc farm which officially closed years ago so the crocs are now eating themselves as they have been abandoned.

There has been a number of scientific studies here in Australia (both in Queensland and the Northern Territory), using satelite tracking devices on large crocodiles.
Evidence indicates that the crocodile returns to the same place that it was captured , even when relocated some hundreds of kms away.


I have also removed the petition aspect of the poll since this thread has drawn the interest of those with influence to the outcome of this particular croc.

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#43 pats0n

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 07:42 PM

I was on the Ondina trip then this happened, moreover I was on one of two dinghies that picked up injured diver and his buddies. Here is my account of situation -

on Apr 13 myself and my buddy finished long relaxed afternoon dive in mangrove shallows and were picked up by dinghy. Just few seconds later our driver received call from boat asking to check urgently other group of divers - we noticed splashes few hundred meters away. Quickly arriving at the scene we found two divers on the surface in the state of serious panic, but we managed to understand that accident involving croc and third diver in the group just happened. In next few seconds we were thinking frantically that to do and my buddy even entered water (he was still with tank) for help - but looking at the faces and panic I really thought that something irreparable happened, it was scary. In few seconds another dinghy arrived, and then something miraculous happened - missing diver surfaced by himself, without mask and with bleeding neck. He was quickly taken on second dinghy and dinghy left to the boat. It was time then I noticed croc on the surface few meters away - he was frantically swimming into distance keeping his mouth open, I could not see much detail well due to contrast sunlight, but animal was huge - at least 3.5-4 meters long. Noticing this we quickly pulled people to the dinghy and collected two other divers groups in the mangroves. It all happened very quickly - between initial call and the moment we arrived to the boat just five minutes or less passed.

Injured diver was attended by one of the Ondina passengers who was doctor, he gave him oxygen, some strong painkiller drugs (valium I think) and started to put stiches on his hand and neck. Ondina crew reaction was very prompt and professional, about after 10-15 minutes after we arrived to the boat we were already sailing to the rendezvous point with speedboat called from one of the nearby villages - it took us about two hours to get there, injured diver and his friend were transferred to Sorong then - that took about 4-5 hours. Ondina crew used all means to make sure that evacuation happens as fast as possible, working frantically on satellite phone communication and boat departure.

Diver injured by croc and his buddy are very experienced divers whom dove many places and even have some technical diving background. They had no cameras with them on this trip. Later we found out that croc came out of nowhere, and grabbed diver from side, damaging his hand and neck and trying to pull victim to the deep place - typical behaviour. Buddy tried to fight croc with his hands (he had no knife in his disposal) and said that he poked an eye of croc with finger, but did not succeed and surfaced to call for help. Apparently croc finally released his hold then victim was able to reach his knife and stab eye with it. Another key factor to survival was that octopus of victim was fastened on his neck - he managed to grab even in this difficult situation and keep breathing. In my opinion it is miracle that diver survived and I attribute it to his bravery and ability to keep calm and disciplined in this extreme situation - perhaps most of us would not be able to deal with this situation in such cold-minded manner. I'm very glad and happy that he is ok and only serious injury is some muscle damage in hand that can be operated and fixed with no lasting effects.

I want to stress what only things I saw by myself from dinghy are to be treated as precise first-hand information - everything else is information I got from divers and crew in pretty hectic circumstances. I did not speak to victim of the attack by myself after accident, but had chance to talk to his buddy before he departed to Sorong. I'm very confident that there was no any kind of provocative behaviour against animal, since as I said above those divers are very experienced, mature and big nature lovers as well, I observed them underwater on other dives and their behaviour is impeccable. In my opinion it is unfortunate but very rare accident - and I think if croc like this is in mangroves it is best to catch and relocate it, since it already displayed offensive behaviour against people - or to close Misool mangroves for diving...

Edited by pats0n, 21 April 2009 - 08:45 PM.


#44 raja.diver

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:00 PM

I read with great interest Deb's post (7:13 am on 21 April) on this forum, as I was the diver who suffered the attack.

While I laud her decision not to take divers to the site in question and her warning to other operators about the risks involved, her report of the accident contains serious errors.

Currently, I am in a Singapore hospital facing a fourth operation tomorrow. My energies must now be devoted to recovering from my injuries. I respectfully ask for your patience until I can make a proper statement.

Edited by raja.diver, 21 April 2009 - 10:02 PM.


#45 Drew

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:26 PM

Thanks for posting personally Alex. I'm sure it was a not so nice experience to witness such a thing.
Relocation doesn't seem to work as I've stated before. However, I've just been put in touch with Dr Tommy Soehartono, who is the head of PHKA, the entity in charge of any decisions made regarding the croc and even closure of the area. The point is not to prevent a massive purge of crocs from the area. I personally hope they don't close the area and just warn people about the dangers. However, the operators may choose to avoid the area due to this incident..

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#46 Drew

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 10:30 PM

David
Thanks for coming onboard to answer the questions, but please take your time. Right now your recovery is of the utmost importance and the facts behind your incident can wait. I wish you a speedy recovery from your operation.
I would also like to apologize for calling you Daniel in my previous post. Brain fart after reading Deb's post.

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#47 Drew

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 06:48 AM

I guess one has to assume that such attacks are possible from this croc or others anywhere in the area.
The question then arises what decisions are taken and to what degree divers are informed and cautioned or prevented from diving in ANY area where these animals are known to exist.
.... Should diving be cautioned against in any area where there are crocs? I'm not suggesting one thing or another, I'd like to hear what others think.


Jeff, I personally think for a place like Indonesia where the crocs are spread out over the less densely populated and more remote islands with habitats suited for the crocs (estuarine, mangroves etc). It's impossible to foresee the presence of crocs much less if they'd attack.
Just last year in Papua Barat, we ran into a 4m buaya while doing a muck dive. It took off once we approached it underwater. Our DM refused to get in the water after that while all of us went back to look for it.
For all of us, getting in the water, there are many inherent risks and some risks are greater than others. Some of us would like to manage what is "acceptable risk". Crocs are dangerous and can kill. They are responsible for more deaths than sharks ever have been. There have been many cases where they've attacked scuba divers/snorkelers/swimmers and even surfers, most at the surface (I can think of one scuba diving attack in 2005 where the diver may have been underwater but that is unconfirmed.)
That said, I know quite a few people (myself included) who'd jump into the water with 4-5m nile crocs or salties. Mind you most of these guys do it as a profession. They know the risks and I would not call them brave nor silly, just people who accept the risks involved.
I think adults should make those decisions themselves. They should not be prevented from diving in the waters, but warnings for areas with crocs would be definitely helpful in guarding against attacks. That's my own personal view.

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#48 blancofer

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:36 PM

I was on the Ondina trip also when the attack of the croc happened.
My name is Fernando Blanco, I.m doctor.
First I.d like to say hello Alex. I agree with you the most of you write here.
Is truth that diver attacked is a mature and serious diver and is sure he didn.t do anything wrong.
Ondina,s crew where helpfull in that situation.
But people must know that evacuation where very difficult and long.
Attack where at 4 or 5 p.m. 13th april but transfer to speed boat where at 3 a.m. next day. we must add
at least 3 more hours until to reach Sorong. This means more than 12 hours until he could be in the nearest
hospital in Sorong city ( poor hospital, I have to say ).
First speed boat they contact, said two hours after that they wanted triple amount of money. they where supposed on the route two hours ago, but when ondina called them again, they where still in Sorong.
They didn,t mind if somebody where injured or dead. They just wanted money.
That area is absolutelly remote, beautiful and solitary and is not the best place for dive with crocodiles
because of the difficult evacuation.
I.m against extermination of crocodiles there ( except maybe the agresor one )
but I advise against to dive there.

Regards from La Rioja, Spain

Fernando B.

#49 pats0n

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 02:55 PM

I was on the Ondina trip also when the attack of the croc happened.
My name is Fernando Blanco, I.m doctor.
First I.d like to say hello Alex. I agree with you the most of you write here.
Is truth that diver attacked is a mature and serious diver and is sure he didn.t do anything wrong.
Ondina,s crew where helpfull in that situation.
But people must know that evacuation where very difficult and long.
Attack where at 4 or 5 p.m. 13th april but transfer to speed boat where at 3 a.m. next day. we must add
at least 3 more hours until to reach Sorong. This means more than 12 hours until he could be in the nearest
hospital in Sorong city ( poor hospital, I have to say ).
First speed boat they contact, said two hours after that they wanted triple amount of money. they where supposed on the route two hours ago, but when ondina called them again, they where still in Sorong.
They didn,t mind if somebody where injured or dead. They just wanted money.
That area is absolutelly remote, beautiful and solitary and is not the best place for dive with crocodiles
because of the difficult evacuation.
I.m against extermination of crocodiles there ( except maybe the agresor one )
but I advise against to dive there.

Regards from La Rioja, Spain

Fernando B.


Fernando,

First of all - thank you for your help and professionalism - we were really lucky to have you on board, anyone of us could have needed your help. I'm sure that then it comes to evacuation details you have better knowledge then myself since you've been very close to your patient.

Cheers, Alex

Edited by pats0n, 22 April 2009 - 03:01 PM.


#50 Drew

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 03:24 PM

Fernando
Thanks for coming and giving us vital information about the evac. I'm sure you wish your holiday was spent enjoying dives instead of sewing up David on the boat. But I'm very sure everyone is very grateful you were there. Did you accompany David all the way to Sorong? Did you disagree with the medical assessment at the hospital?
Yes, the area is very remote. As part of an emergency plan, I'd been looking at various airfields for the plane to land and people to get for medevac transport. The closest air medevac is in Manado. They could land in a private airfield on Seram. I know that Misool Eco Resort had a speed boat standing by to meet you guys as well. It's not cheap either so it's vital EVERYONE has medical evacuation insurance when diving in such an area.
THanks again.

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#51 laurengreider

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Posted 22 April 2009 - 10:09 PM

Drew,

I have a question about the crocodile farm in Bali. Is anyone or any organization doing anything about the abandoned crocodiles? I can't imagine them being left there until they've eaten each other even if they are furocious predators.

It is facinating for me to read everyone's account of the incident. I'm very curious about the identity of the croc and whether or not he/she had an amputation. I thought that the croc might be missing a hand when he started swimming after me but forgot that detail until I saw my slides after our return home. (yes I love my film...) I wasn't physically attacked and had a bit of amnesia of the event. I can imagine details of the injury event could be difficult. Please let me know if you find out. I would have dove Misool again after my encounter. I don't think I would now. My camera was my barrier and probably not something I would want to rely on again. It is a blessing that the injured diver didn't sever his brachial or axillary artery. I may be a bit less macho in the future.

Thanks for all of the information.

Lauren

#52 Drew

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 05:20 AM

Lauren, when I went 2-3 years ago, it'd been closed for some time already and there were dead crocs with flies and maggots... no staff at all. This is the one in Tabanan. Recently I was chatting with a friend who keeps up with this local stuff and he says they deteriorated even more. I think there are a few different farms and shows.
As for David's particular crocodile, I think it best to ask David to post what he remembers. According to Alex, he felt the croc was 3.5-4m which is approximately length as your 10-12ft crocodile in Oct 08.
I totally understand your trepidations in diving Nampale again and I wouldn't take the threat lightly either. I'd be interested to get an update on the condition of the croc before making a decision to avoid diving the place.

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#53 blancofer

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 08:04 AM

Hello Drew
You are very kind, thanks.
No, I didn,t go with David and his friend to Sorong. We talked by satellite phone next morning, but signal was really dirty and I just
could say if they don,t trust Sorong hospital, they sould go to biger city.
As you know, they are now in Singapoore. I keep contact with them and I know his recovery is quite good.

Just one more thing, please, because I desagree with second hand versions that I,ve read here about who helped David on the bottom in those first dramatic moments. Only his friend Jesús went down and fought with his hands against the animal. Dive master that was with them into the water, he never submerged again. I.m not censuring his behavior, of course, but in this case,
I think we just have a hero: Jesús.

Thank you and regards

Fernando B.

#54 Drew

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Posted 25 April 2009 - 07:19 AM

Fernando
Thank you for clarifying that. Many local dive masters have a deathly fearf of crocodiles (buaya), almost to the point of supernatural fears. Whenever we find crocs in Indo water, the local guys fly out of the water and stay out until we leave the area. I would not judge or blame them at all, nor should anyone else.
Jesús is obviously a stellar dive buddy and should be commended for his bravery.

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#55 puffer

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 07:02 AM

I was working in raja ampat around 12 years ago when nobody even new it was there. Now people, tourists should I say know how remote it is and should know they must take more care in these remote places. I saw many photographers in that time push the limits of the envirnoment just to get a picture. It looks like the croc got the upper hand this time. (even if there was no camera)
We all go to these places Raja Ampat for one reason and one reason only, it is one of the last places on earth that is so pristine and not destroyed by Tourist. So the croc bites someone. Next time stay away from it. I think this is a lesson for all divers/photographers me being one of them, dont destroy something so wonderful just to get your picture. And if you see a salt croc swim the other way..

Edited by puffer, 29 April 2009 - 07:11 AM.


#56 CJC

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 07:23 AM

Think most of us agree that it's not the salties fault.

Regarding the killing of animals attacking people on dive sites, it cant be blamed on the animals at all! I'm mostly referring to the morays in Cayman. I worked as u/w photographer on many of the boats there and you will be surprised by how the morays and stingrays are handled and fed.



For example the moray that lives right behind stingray city on the reef. When you visit this site you will find you don't need to look for the moray as the moray looks for you. Locals, boat crew and divers have been feeding these animals for years. As soon as this moray sees you diving down towards him he will swim out towards you looking for his meal of the day. Many times before I had to give the poor eel a bonk with the camera dome as I got the feeling that he is trying to attack me. But all he was trying to do is go for my fingers as they look like his favorite meal, the squid that every one feeds him.



On the other hand the guides on the different boats push the limits. Handling the eel with their hand, wrapping it around them and allow the brave customers to come forth and touch it. Just over 2 years ago one of these guides was doing just this, entertaining his customers when the eel "tried to attack a young girl". The green moray bit the guide on the wrist and in the motion of trying to pull the eel off its sharp teeth cut all the way down his arm. Long story short; Moray is dead, tour guide lost use of 2 fingers and can't do any heavy lifting with his arm.



Now you decide who was in the wrong and what should be done? We have two arguments here:

1. The guide was in the wrong because this is the eel's habitat and instinct.

2. Tourism in Cayman islands is a source of income for most of the locals. When something goes wrong like an eel come in between them and making money, the eel will come off second best as "we can not have dangerous animals scaring the tourists away''.



Is this not why the tourist is there?



I am sure you know which argument I support…



I guess this is different to our salty friend as he has not been fed, but still just acted on natural instinct. If you ask me the diver is in the wrong and therefore we can not kill this animal just because it acted like it is suppose to act.



On a serious note though I don't think that croc will try attack a diver again. Only a donkey will make the same mistake twice!

#57 giftie

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 12:23 PM

I echo what was written by others in this thread, leave the croc alone. He belongs where he is, we are just trespassing.
Please do not try to sanitize and make everything risk free.
Anyone who wants to dive the mangroves should be made aware that there is an added risk involved, for those who are willing to live with it fine, those who don't should skip those dives. I don't agree with making the area off-limits nor to remove the croc to make it safe.
Thousands of people die or get mangled every year in car accidents and I do not seen anyone proposing to ban cars altogether, let's put things in perspective.
I wish the unfortunate diver (and the croc too) a speedy recovery from the incident.
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#58 Drew

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 06:34 PM

If you ask me the diver is in the wrong and therefore we can not kill this animal just because it acted like it is suppose to act.

CJC
The purpose of the thread is not to assign blame on either the diver or the croc. It is to protect the croc from extermination.

I've forwarded all info on radio tags to the relevant people so there mat yet be another solution.

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#59 alfie

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 05:54 AM

Hi All. I'm Alfie from Malaysia and was also on the above cruise with David, Jesus, Fernando, Alex +++. Just wanted to echo Fernando, Jesus was a star, as was David with his quick & cool thinking

#60 Drew

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Posted 07 May 2009 - 06:33 AM

I've been in contact with David and he's back at home resting after the surgeries to repair the damage.
I think part of the confusion came about because the boat operator felt I've accused them of trying to hunt the croc, which I did not. As Mark Erdmann has mentioned, anyone doing the culling will be from the PHKA or locals doing their thing. If I've inadvertently alluded that the Ondina operation has those plans, I apologize for not making it absolutely clear that is not the case. No operator has openly asked for the croc to be removed from the area, AFAIK.
I don't pretend to know all the facts but I've been told by PHKA there is no plan right now to cull the croc in question. The option of radio tagging the injured croc has proposed to CI.
Hopefully the operators whose clients do request to go to the area will support such measures for the safety of their clients. It's such a beautiful area that to close it off for divers would be a pity. Not to make light of David's injuries or the risks, but it seems Lauren's camera rig may have thwarted the attack by providing a barrier.
It is a testament to David's experience and fortitude that he managed to live to tell the tale.

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