Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Feature Stories’ Category

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


5. An Occurrence at Sandy Creek

At 10 p.m. on October 12, 2002, Isabel and Valarie von Jordan left the Sari Club in Bali one hour before a bomb destroyed the bar and killed 202 people and injured 209 in a neighborhood terrorist attack.

The sisters, students from Heidelberg, Germany, wanted to forget the horror of the tragedy so they decided to spend the rest of their vacation somewhere safer – the Australian Outback.

At 7 a.m. on Sunday, October 20, the pair embarked on a four-day tour of Kakadu National Park, a vast timeless wilderness known for its stunning beauty and diverse wildlife.

Isabel, 23, and Valarie, 21, were part of a group of nine tourists led by Glenn Robless, a 46-year-old guide who worked for Gondwana Adventure Tours.

On Tuesday night, the campers were sitting around telling stories and sharing some laughs. Around 10:30 p.m., they decided to freshen up and go for a swim. Robless said he knew just the place about a half-mile away.

When the group arrived at Sandy Creek beach, they thought it was a perfect spot. The sand was soft and cool. The 10-foot high banks that framed the cove were home to a mini-forest of trees and tropical plants. And the full moon’s reflection gleamed over the inviting, tranquil water.

But a few of the tourists were concerned – several crocodile warning signs were posted.

Robless quickly assured everyone the waters were safe and that only harmless freshwater crocs might be present, not the fearsome man-eating salties.

He also added Sandy Creek was a famous place where Aboriginal people had been swimming for years. In addition, Robless checked the waters by shining a torch around the immediate area, looking for an “eye shine” – a reflection of red croc eyes above the surface. He saw none.

Satisfied, several of the campers entered the water around 11 p.m., including Isabel and Valarie.

James Rothwell, 24, a British tourist in the group remembers the horror that followed.

“We were about 10 yards out from the shore, all within sight and arm’s length of each other,” Rothwell said later in an official statement. “I felt a bang on my leg and seconds later heard a girl scream. And the girl went under the water.

“We got to the shore and shone torches on the water,” Rothwell continued. “We saw with the torches two red eyes going away from where the girl had just gone under. And we saw the outline of a crocodile swimming along the surface of the water.”

By 6:30 a.m., four park rangers found Isabel von Jordan’s mutilated body and captured the 15-foot, 1,100-pound saltwater crocodile that killed her. The sight of Isabel’s limp body in the reptile’s jaws still haunts them.

“It was sitting in the water like a dog with a bone,” said Kakadu National Park Ranger Garry Lindner during an interview with the London Independent. “Time stood still for me. I watched it swim along with the girl in its mouth. It wouldn’t let go.”

Tour guide Robless received a three-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty to making a dangerous omission that caused Isabel von Jordan’s death.

The rangers said they saw eight large saltwater crocs in Sandy Creek while they were searching for Isabel’s body.

 ***

German college students Valarie von Jordan, 21, (left) and sister Isabel von Jordan, 23, arrive at Darwin Airport in Australia Sunday, October 20, 2002. Two days later Isabel was attacked and killed by a 15-foot saltwater crocodile while swimming in Kakadu National Park's Sandy Creek. (Photo - Newspix)

 

The dead 15-foot 1,100 pound salt-water crocodile on the banks of Sandy Creek. The croc attacked and killed German tourist Isabel von Jordan, while she was swimming. The area directly behind the croc was where Isabel was taken. (Newspix)

 

National Park Rangers Greg Ryan, Garry Lindner, Andrew Wellings and Buck Salau with the dead 15-foot 1,100 pound saltwater crocodile on the banks of Sandy Creek located near Darwin in northern Australia. The croc seized German tourist Isabel von Jordan, 23, while she was enjoying a moonlit swim. (Photo - Newspix)

 

-End-

Now available  –  eBook, Unfinished Nightmare: The Search for More Victims of John Wayne Gacy by Chris Maloney.

Read Full Post »

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


4. Champ’s Best Friend

Located in northeastern Australia, Daintree is a small tropical community defined by its 700 close-knit residents and the region’s striking natural beauty that hasn’t changed much in thousands of years.

Steve and Sharon Doble and their two sons, Jeremy, 5, and Ryan, 7, moved to the area in 2004. The family enjoyed five years of living in this quiet secluded settlement far away from the daily grind of the modern world.

And they loved the freedom and adventure of residing near the banks of the Daintree River, a beautiful ancient waterway that flows through a lush rainforest.

Steve, 40, and Sharon, 39, made a nice living operating the Daintree Rainforest River Train, an eco-friendly wildlife boat cruise that specialized in spotting crocodiles for tourists.

But on February 8, 2009, everything changed.

It was Sunday morning around 9:15. Jeremy, Ryan and their new boxer puppy, Champ, were playing behind their treehouse-style home that their parents had rebuilt.

The boys were taking turns pulling each other around on a boogie board through the shallow floodwaters of the Daintree River, which occasionally crept into their backyard during an especially high tide.

Champ was splashing in the water nearby when Jeremy noticed a large crocodile silently moving in to attack his puppy. Instinctively, Jeremy positioned himself between Champ and the croc and tried to make the giant predator go away.

But it didn’t go away.

Watching in horror, Ryan cried out for help as the 14-foot monster seized his little brother in its massive jaws.

Hearing the screams, Steve Doble ran down from the house and desperately tried to find Jeremy.

“When I got there, the area was deadly silent, no sounds of insects or anything,” Doble said during an interview with Australia’s Woman’s Day magazine. “I was calling out ‘Jeremy, it’s all right, Daddy’s here. You have to let me know where you are so I can find you.’ But he didn’t reply. I scrambled around the water and mud, but we found nothing.”

Doble spent over 20 hours a day searching every river and creek with authorities and friends. On Friday, February 13, their search ended when wildlife officers caught the killer saltwater croc known as “Goldie” to locals. The remains of Jeremy were found inside.

“The thing every parent looks forward to is seeing their child growing up,” said Doble during an interview with the Courier Mail. “But Jeremy will always remain a five-year-old boy and our memories of him will only be for those five years. That, for me, is the hardest thing to deal with…I don’t think we’ll ever get over it. It’s like having your soul wrenched from you and you’ll never get it back.”

A creek that runs through the Doble’s property has been named Jeremy Creek in recognition of their son’s spirit and courage.

Brave little Jeremy Doble gave his life to save Champ, who survived the attack with no injuries.

***

Jeremy and Champ. Five-year-old Jeremy Doble was playing behind his house with his brother, Ryan, 7, and his boxer puppy, Champ, when he was taken by a 14-foot saltwater crocodile. Jeremy saved Champ from the large reptile, which cost him his life.  (Photo – The Cairns Post)

Steve and Sharon Doble, with son Ryan, sold their home after son Jeremy was taken by a croc while playing in the backyard. (Photo – Brian Cassey – BrianCasseyPhotographer.com)

The 14-foot saltwater crocodile that killed Jeremy Doble before it was captured. Jeremy’s parents, who operate a river tour that specializes in spotting crocodiles, requested the crocodile, known as Goldie, be allowed to live in captivity. (Photo – Brian Cassey – BrianCasseyPhotographer.com)

The beautiful but dangerous Daintree River in Daintree, Australia. The river’s waters crept into the Doble’s backyard on Feb. 8, 2009 – attracting a giant croc that killed five-year old Jeremy. (Photo – John-vanda – Travelpod.com)

-End-

The exclusive five-part feature Eaten Alive: Five Killer Croc Attacks concludes with Part Five: “An Occurrence at Sandy Creek,” the story of a guide who leads a group of tourists to a beautiful swimming hole that has just one problem…it’s infested with man-eating crocs.

Read Full Post »

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

3. An African Thank You

Botswana, a southern African nation with a population of 1.9 million, has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world, with nearly 25 percent of adults infected.

Dr. Richard Root, a Seattle resident and a University of Washington Medical School professor, wanted to do something to help. And he could.

Richard, 68, was one of the modern leaders in academic medicine and a nationally-known expert in the study of infectious diseases. He was a former director of the National Institutes of Health’s AIDS Advisory Committee and was a former chief of medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

But Richard was also known for his compassion and his ability to inspire others. Whether it was caring for patients or teaching medical students, the doctor had a gift for connecting with people.

So it was no surprise when Richard and his wife, Rita O’Boyle, decided they would spend two months at the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, the largest public hospital in Botswana, to help fight the epidemic.

On Friday, March 17, 2006, less than a month into their stay, Richard and Rita visited a clinic in the Tuli Nature Preserve, a remote area located in the far eastern corner of Botswana.

The Tuli region is known for its dramatic scenery that includes abundant vegetation and a large population of elephants that share the territory with elands, impalas, wildebeests, kudus, aardvarks, waterbucks, lions, leopards, cheetahs and 350 species of birds.

Richard and Rita loved the native animals and the exotic landscapes of Africa. It brought a sense of calm to their lives, which had been touched by tragedy before they married in 2004.

Richard had devoted two years of his life caring for his high school sweetheart and wife of 41 years, Marilyn, before she passed away of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2001.

Rita had also recently lost a spouse to a chronic illness before meeting Richard in 2003. Their relationship helped erase the sadness and together they discovered a renewed joy for life.

After spending two days at the safari lodge providing medical care for the employees and their families, the couple decided to have some fun by exploring the nearby Limpopo River on a canoe trip.

Richard and his guide lead the voyage, while Rita and her guide followed.

With their thoughts focused on the unique beauty of Africa, the Seattle residents slowly paddled down the majestic Limpopo, a 1,000-mile waterway that outlines the Botswana and South Africa border.

But the peaceful Sunday afternoon journey quickly ended when the river exploded in a terrifying rush of power. With perfect precision, a 13-foot Nile crocodile launched like a Tomahawk missile from beneath the surface of the coffee-colored water and snatched Richard from his seat.

Then all was quiet. The doctor and the prehistoric assassin were gone.

Rita witnessed the split-second ambush.

“All of a sudden, the canoe just shook and Dick went over and never came back up,” Rita said during an interview with KTVB-TV in Boise, Idaho. “Then the water changed color, and I just knew he was gone.”

A life jacket and parts of Richard’s body were discovered a few days later and cremated. The crocodile was never found.

***

Dr. Richard Root, 68, an infectious disease expert from Seattle, was killed by a 13-foot Nile crocodile during a canoe trip on the Limpopo River, located on the border of Botswana and South Africa.

 

Dr. Richard Root prepares for his fateful trip down the Limpopo River in Botswana. Dr. Root was literally snatched from his seat by a 13-foot Nile croc on March 19, 2006 and never seen again.

 

Dr. Richard Root, front, paddling in his canoe just minutes before being ambushed by a 13-foot Nile crocodile on the Limpopo River. The photo was taken by his wife, Rita O'Boyle, who was in a second canoe behind him.

 

A large Nile crocodile on the surface of the Limpopo River in Botswana. A Limpopo croc hunted and killed Dr. Richard Root while he was enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon canoe trip. The photo was taken by Johan van der Walt - WildLifeSouthAfrica.com

-End-

 

The exclusive five-part feature Eaten Alive: Five Killer Croc Attacks continues with Part Four: “Champ’s Best Friend,” the heartbreaking story of a brave little boy, his puppy dog and an ancient predator. 

Read Full Post »

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.

***

American model Ginger Faye Meadows, 24, was eaten by a large saltwater crocodile on March 29, 1987 in Northwestern Australia. She was on a vacation that was inspired by the movie Crocodile Dundee.

 

A large Australian saltwater crocodile similar in size to the reptile that attacked American model Ginger Meadows at the King's Cascades in northwestern Australia on March 29, 1987. The angle of the picture is similar to Meadows and Burchett's view as the croc stared the pair down before attacking Meadows as she tried to swim to safety.

 

The plunging waterfalls of the King's Cascades in Northwestern Australia the site where American model, Ginger Meadows, was killed by a large saltwater crocodile on March 29, 1987. Meadows and friend Jane Burchett were standing in waist deep water with their backs against the wall of rock on the left edge of the falls when confronted by the reptile. Meadows, a strong swimmer, was immediately attacked as she tried to swim to land about 25 yards away.

 

-End-

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.

Read Full Post »

(Photo - Steve Chen/AP)

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

 

Introduction

A near perfect killing machine and one of the most feared animals on earth, the crocodile has honed its hunting techniques for 200 million years.

And although its jaws are its weapon, the crocodile’s success depends on patience and its ability to ambush prey.

“A crocodile will stalk a target for hours or even days if necessary, and an 18-foot, 2,000-pound crocodile can hide in two feet of water and never give itself away,” says Rob Carmichael, a reptile expert and founder of the Wildlife Discovery Center in Chicago.

“You can be close to shore and think you’re safe,” continues Carmichael. “But you’ll never see the attack coming. The crocodile explodes from the water, takes you under and you’re gone. It’s over in seconds.”

There are 23 species of crocodiles, including the Nile – found in Africa and Madagascar – and the saltwater or estuarine crocodile – found in West Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania and Australia.

Both are notorious man-eaters.

The Nile croc can reach a maximum size of 20 feet and weigh up to 1,650 pounds.

A large Nile croc moments before a kill on the infamous Mara River in Kenya. The stunning image was captured by Vaclav Silha, a Czech wildlife photographer.

 

The saltwater croc can reach 23 feet in length, weigh 3,000 pounds and exert a bite force of 5,000 pounds per square inch, compared to 400 pounds per square inch for a large great white shark.

A 17.9-foot saltwater croc weighing well over 2,000 pounds. Photo by Adam Britton - crocodilian.com.

 

Combined, Nile and saltwater crocodiles account for hundreds of deaths each year including the five extraordinary and heartbreaking attacks featured in this five-part story.

The details of the attacks are based on original interviews, newspaper stories, press conferences, police reports, court transcripts and the book Crocodile Attack in Australia (Swan Publishing 1988) by Hugh Edwards.

The victims, who range in age from 5 to 68, include two Americans, two Australians and one German.

“All of these attacks are absolutely horrific,” Carmichael says. “But as gruesome as they are, they’re not really the crocodile’s fault. The attacks are the result of people putting themselves in bad situations. The crocodile is just doing what it is engineered and wired to do. And it does it very well.”

 

1. 22 Hours In Hell

It was Sunday afternoon, Dec. 21, 2003.

Brett Mann, a 22-year-old mechanic, and two of his buddies, Ashley McGough and Shaun Blowers, both 19, were enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

The three men were riding 4-wheel ATVs in a flooded tropical wilderness about 50 miles southwest of Darwin, their hometown located on the northern border of Australia.

The childhood friends knew this piece of paradise well. They often visited to escape the monotony of city life.

Covered in mud, they decided to clean up on the banks of the fast-moving Finniss River before heading home. It was 4:30 p.m.

“We went down to the river and just had a bit of a bath, washing all our clothes and boots,” Shaun said later at a press conference. “Brett went out just a little bit farther and was washed away. We both jumped in and swam after him.”

After traveling in the current for more than half a mile, the trio searched for land. But a new problem developed.

“Ashley yelled out, ‘Croc! Croc! I’m not joking, there’s a croc. Head for a tree! Get out of the water!’” Shaun said at a press conference later.

“I didn’t see a croc, but swam to the nearest tree and climbed up into the first fork,” Shaun continued. ”I helped pull Ashley up into the same tree. I didn’t see Brett anywhere or hear him call out. I didn’t hear a call or a splash or anything.

“It wasn’t very long after we got into the tree, maybe two minutes later, that I saw a croc pop up with Brett in his jaws,” Shaun continued. “Brett wasn’t moving, he was lying face-down in the water and the croc was gripping him by the left shoulder…It went under the water with Brett and swam away. I did not see Brett again.”

About five minutes later, the “big, black and aggressive” crocodile returned to the base of the tree and stayed. Sometimes it surfaced. And its menacing grin sent a wave of terror through its two human prey – trapped, just out of reach.

As day turned into night and the temperature dropped, it was apparent the large reptile was waging a war of attrition that it had no intention of losing.

However, Shaun and Ashley, still in shock from seeing their friend in the jaws of this monster, were just as determined as their 13-foot adversary. They literally hung in there.

“Because we couldn’t see each other, because it was dark, I had my hand on Ashley’s foot,” Shaun said in a police statement. “Whenever we moved, we’d say, ‘I’m moving’, and just check in on each other and make sure we weren’t going to sleep. We were worn out from hanging on to the little tree, [which] was swaying all night because there was a lot of wind and rain.”

The two spent 22 hours clinging to that small tree in cold, dark and wet conditions while the killer saltwater croc waited patiently, just 15 feet below.

Finally, around 2:30 p.m. the next day, their nightmare was over. A search team found Shaun and Ashley and lifted them to safety by helicopter.

They had lost a battle, but won the war.

Despite an extensive search, Brett Mann and the crocodile were never seen again.

***

Brett Mann, 22, was eaten by a 13-foot saltwater crocodile on Dec. 21, 2003 in the Finniss River located in the Northern Territory, Australia.

 

Ashley McGough, left, and Shaun Blowers, at a Dec. 23, 2003 press conference in Darwin, Australia. (Photo by David Hancock - GalleryTwoSix.com)

 

A large black saltwater crocodile that fits the description of the reptile that killed Brett Mann on Dec. 21, 2003 in the Finniss River located in the Northern Territory, Australia. The view of the croc is similar to the view that Ashley McGough and Shaun Blowers had when the pair spent 22 hours clinging to a submerged tree only 15 feet above the water while being stalked by the animal that ate their friend. (Photo by Jon Loman - Rana.se.)

 

The Finniss River site where a 13-foot saltwater crocodile seized Brett Mann. His two friends, Ashley McGough and Shaun Blowers spent 22 hours in the front tree marked with a ribbon as the killer crocodile waited patiently below. Two movies, Rogue and Black Water, were made about the ordeal. (Newspix)

 

Police on quad bikes searching the Finnis River area after a 13-foot saltwater crocodile killed Brett Mann. Shaun Blowers and Ashley McGough watched as the croc took their friend and then showed off his body as it circled the tree they clung to for 22 hours. (Newspix)

 

Wildlife officers holding high-powered weapons in the search for the croc that killed Brett Mann. (Newspix)


-End-

 

The exclusive five-part feature, Eaten Alive: Five Killer Croc Attacks, continues with Part Two: “Back Against The Wall,” the story of an American model who makes a split-second decision that determines the fate of two lives.

Read Full Post »