‘Wrong place, wrong time’: diver whose head was in croc’s jaws

Crocodile (Petr Kratochvil)
Crocodile (Petr Kratochvil)

A diver enjoying an after-lunch snorkelling session with his wife and friends at a remote location off north-eastern Australia has had a lucky escape – after a saltwater crocodile came up behind him and wrapped its jaws around his head.

Marcus McGowan shared his experience from hospital while being treated for injuries sustained in the attack. He had been snorkelling in clear water from a boat anchored at the Sir Charles Hardy Islands, about 40km off Queensland’s Cape York peninsula, on 27 May.

“While checking out some coral and fish and talking to a fellow-snorkeller, I was attacked from behind by a saltwater crocodile, which got its jaws around my head,” said McGowan. “I thought it was a shark but when I reached up I realised it was a crocodile. I was able to lever its jaws open just far enough to get my head out.”

The crocodile then attempted to attack McGowan a second time, but he says he managed to push it away with his right hand – which the reptile promptly bit.

“I was able to escape the crocodile’s grip once again and swim to the safety of the boat, which was coming after they heard our screams for help.”

Size of the crocodile

The incident happened too quickly for McGowan to estimate the crocodile’s exact size, although he suspects that it was a 2-3m juvenile. The boat-crew headed for Haggerstone Island, about 45 minutes away, and on the way one of his friends, a fireman with first-aid training, bandaged his injuries and administered antibiotic shots to prevent infection.

An emergency helicopter took McGowan on to a hospital on Thursday Island for treatment, and after further assessment he was taken to Cairns for further treatment of scalp lacerations and puncture wounds to his head and hands.

McGowan did not blame the crocodile for the attack. “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.

“I was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I’m just grateful it was me and not one of the kids or ladies in the group.” Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service was investigating the incident.

Scuba deaths in Florida

Two scuba-diving deaths have occurred in Florida in the space of three days. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was alerted around mid-day on 26 May that a diver was in trouble at a Blue Springs cave-site, but the body of the 38-year-old unnamed male was reportedly quickly found by the owner of Cave Adventures and cave-diver Edd Sorenson and his team.

The diver was not from the area and investigators said they believed the incident to have been an accidental drowning. 

On the morning of 29 May a scuba diver was reported to have lost consciousness while diving the Duane wreck off Key Largo. Perry Lane Anderson, 65, from Mooresville, North Carolina, had been diving the ex-Coast Guard cutter from Rainbow Reef dive-centre’s boat. Other divers brought him back to the vessel, where the crew applied CPR, but he was later declared dead at a hospital in Tavernier.

Also on Divernet: Saltwater croc bites GBR snorkeller, The American crocodiles of Cuba, Caribbean pearl the Jardines de la Reina, Diving into Mexico’s seductive underworld


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