They will kill today. They killed yesterday. And they will kill tomorrow.”
-Alison Anderson, Former Environment Minister, the Northern Territory, Australia, on the rise of crocodile attacks
2. Back Against The Wall
More than 35 million Americans went to see Crocodile Dundee when it came out in 1986, including Ginger Meadows, a red-haired model from Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ginger, 24, loved the movie so much it inspired her to take a trip to Australia.
After attending the 1987 America’s Cup held near Perth, she hitched a ride north on the Lady G, a 108-foot luxury yacht captained by Bruce Fitzpatrick.
Ginger, a charismatic free spirit who easily made new friends, was a welcome addition to the crew.
On Sunday, March 29, Captain Fitzpatrick, Ginger and three others took a morning speedboat trip to the remote King’s Cascades in the northwest part of the country.
The Cascades, a stunning terraced waterfall that overlooks a bay off the Prince Regent River, sits 130 feet above the cove and measures a football field across.
The pool below the rainbow-misted falls is surrounded by a semi-circle of steep, rocky hills filled with trees and plant life that make the area one of the most beautiful and rugged places in all of Australia.
At 11:20 a.m., Ginger and new Australian friend Jane Burchett, decided to cool off and swim to the left side of the Cascades, where they planned to climb the rocks and explore the top of the falls.
The pair knew there were crocodiles in the region, but they felt safe. Tourist brochures showed people swimming in the bay, and no warning signs were posted.
Hugh Edwards, in his book Crocodile Attack in Australia (Swan Publishing 1988), recounts what happened next.
Fitzpatrick could see Meadows and Burchett from the cliffs above. He could also see the large saltwater crocodile slowly moving towards them.
“Crocodile!” Fitzpatrick shouted. “Crocodile! Get out of the water! Get out of the water!”
But the girls had nowhere to go. They were trapped in waist-deep water on a ledge with their backs against a solid wall of rock.
The crocodile was right in front of them, about 15 feet away.
“Ginger was holding onto my arm,” Burchett said. “I screamed as loud as I could to scare the crocodile and took off my shoe and threw it. I think it hit the crocodile. It stopped and looked disconcerted, as though it had lost its bearings. Ginger looked at me and said ‘What do we do now?’”
Burchett was about to say, “I don’t know, but let’s stay here.” But before she could speak, Meadows had let go of her arm and decided to swim to a dry bank on the right side, about 25 yards away.
“She only got a few feet,” Burchett said. “I was thinking, Why, oh why did she do that? Then it happened.”
The crocodile surged toward Meadows and attacked. Grabbing her by the upper legs and hips, its jaws extended past her bikini clad body on both sides. The giant reptile dragged her beneath the water. Resurfacing for an instant, Meadows silently reached to the others for help, but there was nothing anyone could do.
“She looked at me as though to say ‘What’s happening?’” Burchett said.
Jane Burchett never saw her American friend or the crocodile again. The next day Ginger Meadows would’ve celebrated her 25th birthday.
Two days later, a search team found her armless body face-down in the water. It was being “stored” by the crocodile for a future meal.
The exclusive five-part feature Eaten Alive: Five Killer Croc Attacks continues with Part Three: “An African Thank You,” the story of a Seattle doctor whose two-month goodwill trip to Africa turns into a permanent stay.