Lee de Paauw, 18, is one lucky guy. He was grabbed by a three-metre crocodile while climbing out of Queenland's Johnstone River after being dared to jump in.
He survived the terrifying encounter with his left arm suffering “significant injuries” but “still intact, which is very fortunate," says a Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) officer who was called to the scene. Lee managed to fight off his attacker by punching it with his right arm.
Lee was taken to Innisfail Hospital and later transferred to Cairns Hospital and is in a stable condition, set to undergo surgery to reattach his arm.
British backpacker Sophie Paterson witnessed the entire encounter, and was the one who initially dared Lee to jump in the river.
“He was talking about the local creek saying ‘I can swim out’ and so we said, ‘go on then’, but we didn’t think he would do it,” she told Courier Mail.
Sophie and her friends met Lee earlier that evening at the hostel she was staying at and, after sharing a few drinks, Lee bragged about swimming across the notorious crocodile-infested river.
“He sort of made this claim ‘I’ll swim out and back’, (and) at first we just said ‘don’t be so ridiculous’ and didn’t think he was going to go through with it," she said.
“It all happened very fast, pretty much as soon as he jumped in, there was splashing and screaming.”
As soon as Lee pulled himself from the water an ambulance was called.
QAS senior operations supervisor Neil Noble confirmed Sophie’s reports, and said the group acted quickly and appropriately to save Lee’s life.
"To get him out of the water was absolutely vital in case that crocodile was able to get a good grip, do a death roll and drown him, which I believe is often the case."
The river is well known for its high crocodile population, but a crocodile cull is not the solution.
“Most people have got common sense... we can’t legislate to protect d-ckheads, but we need to be protecting the community; public safety and our tourism reputation are priority,” Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan said.