After a crocodile overturned his boat in Australia’s Northern Territory, an elderly man protected his life with the only items he had available — hand tools.
Sadly, Robert Haughton, 72, couldn’t save his friend, Noel Ramage, 75, who drowned after the boat capsized. Afterward, the surviving man suffered a frightening three-hour fight with a number of crocodiles.
The harrowing fight happened on Tuesday. It’s the start of the dry season in Australia, and Robert and Noel traveled to Darwin from Victoria to go crabbing, the Age Victoria reported. They set out in what the Australians call a tinny, or an open aluminum boat.
By the afternoon, they were pulling crab pots into the 10-foot-long tinny when a crocodile tipped over the boat, the Herald Sun recounted.
In the Northern Territory, where there’s one crocodile for every two residents, the reptiles can grow to be about 20 feet long, or about twice the size of the men’s tinny.
According to 7News, both men were thrown into the water, said the director of an aeromedical service called CareFlight, Ian Badham. He said both men tried to climb back into the boat, but it “further capsized.”
— 7 News Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) May 18, 2016
Robert tried to fight off an increasing number of crocodiles swarming to the scene, but the man didn’t have much available to defend him and his friend. So he threw spark plugs and wrenches at the reptiles and tossed other “things and banging at other crocs trying to get to him.”
“It was just a sheer act of desperation and survival.”
Noel was caught underneath the tinny and drowned, leaving the other man to fight the crocodiles on his own. While throwing everything he could to keep them at bay, Robert pulled his boat into mangroves nearby, but his ordeal didn’t end there.
The next three hours ended up sending the elderly man into severe shock.
He told his rescuers that as he crawled to the mangroves, he was stuck waist-deep in the mud as the tide came in, and remained there, struggling, until he could drag the boat to safety. While he waited, the crocodiles came.
A Careflight spokesman described what happened next.
“The crocs started turning up and appearing and he had three or four around him at any one time. He said that one [croc] was there looking at him and coming over so he flogged it and it went down and then it popped up like right there, right in front of him and he’s like getting ready to flog it again and it’s popped down again and he thought to himself, ‘don’t move or it’ll feel me under the water, feel my vibrations.”
Robert was only rescued when professional crabbers sailed past and heard his shouts of desperation.
Man throws spark plugs and tools to fend off crocodile for three hours https://t.co/LVjoR2J2R5
— The Guardian (@guardian) May 18, 2016
“They pushed their tinny right up into the mangroves and as he was sort of climbing in to the boat crocodiles were just sort of skedaddling everywhere, [ones] that he didn’t even know they were there,” the spokesman said.
They retrieved Noel’s body and Haughton, bringing them to a boat ramp nearby; they drove until they got phone reception and called authorities. He was treated for severe shock and was then flown to Darwin, where he was admitted to the hospital.
The Kangaroo Flat Rotary Club, where Noel was a member, has honored the man with a touching tribute in which his struggle with cancer and generosity were noted warmly.
“Noel truly stood for what Rotary stands for. His work in the community was far reaching and he had the time for everyone. (He) made people feel welcome. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed and would support any one in their time of need.”
Remarkably, this isn’t the first time a crocodile apparently attacked a boat and its occupants purposefully. Back in 2015, a man named Bill Scott was killed in Kakadu after a crocodile destabilized his boat. He was attacked and dragged overboard by the animal.
[Image via Meister Photos/Shutterstock]