A birthday party in the Australian Outback went horribly awry Saturday when a crocodile engulfed a swimmer and pulled him underwater. After a weekend-long search, police reported Monday that the body of Sean Cole, 26, has been recovered, the Associated Press reports.
Cole and a friend had attempted to swim across a 260-foot-wide, “crocodile-infested” river during a 30th birthday party in the Mary River Wilderness Retreat, a touristy spot in the Outback near Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. Tom Nichols, Northern Territory wildlife ranger, told the AP that witnesses saw the crocodile making its way upstream with the victim’s body in its mouth.
Early Monday morning, officials found Cole’s body floating on the river’s surface, along with the carcass of a crocodile, which was more than 15 feet, 5 inches, long and weighed more than 1,430 pounds. Authorities believe the victim was either drowned or crushed to death by the crocodile, which was one of four shot by park rangers in the aftermath of the attack, the AP reports. It is possible that Cole, an IT worker from Darwin, had been under the influence of alcohol when he decided to swim across the river, Senior Sergeant Geoff Bahnert told the AP over the weekend.
The Mary River is notoriously dangerous for swimming as the Northern Territory boasts one of the highest concentrations of crocodiles in the world. Dr. Grahame Webb, an expert on the area’s crocodile population, told The Guardian “there were about 20 times more crocodiles in the territory now compared with 1971, when saltwater crocodiles were officially protected.” In November 2012, a crocodile fatally attacked a 7-year-old girl, and two weeks later, another one killed a 9-year-old boy. As a result, signs all over the Mary River Wilderness Retreat warn guests not to go swimming and not to stand within 16 feet of the water’s edge so that they stay out of the crocodiles’ reach.
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