Wildlife officers have killed a crocodile that mauled two soldiers who went swimming in a remote Queensland bay where the reptiles were known to live.
The officers had no trouble identifying their target, with the reptile becoming highly aggressive as they approached it in their vessel north of Lockhart River on Tuesday.
The 2.5-metre croc was still in the same area where the soldiers were attacked on Friday afternoon, offshore from the community of Portland Road.
One of the soldiers suffered broken bones and other upper body injuries when he was mauled in the water. A second soldier, who tried to help, had his arm ripped open.
Drones, crocodile traps and baited snares were used to catch and kill the crocodile, with the environment department saying relocation was not an option.
“If we were to trap and move the animal over a long distance, that usually has a negative outcome for the crocodile,” wildlife officer Ren Bone said. “And we can’t leave an animal that has attacked a human being in the community.”
Cape York local Jayson Watkins helped get the injured pair to shore after the attack. He couldn’t fathom why they ventured into the water in the first place.
Watkins used his tinny to reach an army vessel that had anchored off Portland Road. As he approached he could see frantic activity onboard as medics bandaged the men’s wounds and gave them pain killers.
“Apart from the horrific injuries, they were very clearly in shock,” he said. “It’s everything you’d think when you look at the injuries. It was definitely broken bones because you’ve got to remember the jaw pressure per square inch from a crocodile’s insane.”
The soldiers endured a long rescue mission that spanned 700km. They were transferred to shore in the tinny, where a rescue helicopter met them and flew them to Lockhart airport.
From there, the Royal Flying Doctor Service transported them to Cairns, where they were rushed to hospital.
The defence department confirmed on the weekend both men were army personnel but didn’t reveal if they were on or off duty when attacked.
“Our immediate focus is on providing the necessary medical treatment for the soldiers involved and supporting their families who have been informed,” the department said. “The incident is under investigation and, as such, defence will not provide any further detail.”