A 24-year-old man enjoying a birthday outing with his friends was believed killed by a giant crocodile while swimming in the reptile-infested waters of the Mary River in the Northern Territory of Australia. Police report that the incident occurred in front of over a dozen onlookers, the swimmer suddenly becoming clamped in the jaws of the monstrous predator and pulled underwater.
AFP reported (via Yahoo News) Aug. 25 that the young man and a friend had both decided to swim across the river while camping in the Mary River Wilderness Retreat, which is located about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of the northern city of Darwin. The crocodile attack was reported around 4 p.m. on Saturday by one of the victim's friends.
"They were watching him swim across," senior sergeant Geoff Bahnert told AFP when describing the attack. He noted that 15 people had watched the crocodile attack unfold.
"And they just saw a crocodile with him in its jaws."
The swimmers had ignored repeated warnings that the surrounding waterways were infested with large crocodiles.
The man hasn't been seen since, nor have authorities recovered any remains as yet. Police searched for the missing man, but their efforts proved fruitless. Bahnert said the search would continue through Sunday. He added that the largest crocodile at the Mary River camping site had been shot and killed as a precaution.
"The Mary River is known worldwide to have the greatest saturation of adult saltwater crocodiles in the world. You don't swim in the Mary River," Bahnert told the Associated Press. He also noted that alcohol may have played a part in the decision to swim the river.
"We tell people to stay away from the water, they obviously went against this (and) a man was taken," Erin Bayard, an employee at Mayor River Resort, told News Corp Australia. She said that campers are warned about the deadly reptiles in the surrounding waterways, that there is "a large croc" every couple of kilometers along the river.
Bayard said the report of the attack was made by a friend of the victim. "The friend came back in deep shock and it was obvious just by looking at him that something bad had happened," she said, according to The Daily Mail.
She added, "He was saying over and over that a crocodile had taken his friend."
The animal spotted in the sudden attack was a Saltwater Crocodile, the largest reptile on the planet and considered to be among the deadliest as well. Its attack methods are likened to the Great White shark in its savagery.
The crocodiles, called "salties," pull their victims toward the river bottom and roll with them until they drown. Then they usually eat part of the now dead animal. Afterward, they take the leftover portion of the remains and store them in an underwater cache to be consumed at a later time.
The attack and probable death is the first fatality in the Northern Territory since December when a 9-year-old boy was taken by a 13-foot (4-meter) crocodile in Dhania.
Crocodile attacks have been responsible for four other deaths in Australia since 2009.