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An Interview with John Conway, Crocodile Bite Victim

Copyright © Bradley FordIt is not often you have the opportunity to interview people that have been bitten by crocodiles. Let’s face it, it doesn’t happen often, and many of those people can’t talk afterwards…they’re dead. So I jumped at the chance to interview John Conway, a survivor of such an attack.

When I met John for coffee I was surprised by his appearance. He was young American, and I had expected him to be an older man, and to be Australian for sure. (Besides, he had all his limbs attached.) John explained how he ended up in Australia. “I was on a trip to Australia with my family, and part of that time we explored the Cape York Peninsula, guided by a teacher who knew the bush really well.”

Well, that explained his presence in an area where crocodiles are quite common. Perhaps 30% of Australia’s Salt Water Crocodiles are found in this section of remote wilderness, many of which are large enough to catch and kill animals as big as cattle and horses. Every year in Australia someone is attacked, usually by violating some of the common safety rules intended to reduce the chance of attack.

John explained further the events leading up to the attack: “We were camping in one of the National Parks, where one of the local wildlife rangers was a friend of our guide. He came by our camp and offered to take us out in a skiff one night to observe crocodiles close-up.” This part of John’s story made sense, for it fit one of the patterns of crocodile attacks; large territorial crocs feel threatened by a small boats entering their territory, and attack the boat and it’s occupants. I was beginning to question the judgment of the ranger when John continued his tale.

“We spotted a crocodile and our ranger, intending to give us a really close look, jumped out of the boat and caught the croc with his bare hands. He struggled with it for a bit, finally got a good grip on it and holding it tightly, dragged it ashore. We beached the skiff and walked over to help the ranger, and get a look at the croc.”

“After awhile the ranger tried to let me hold the croc, and I thought I had a pretty good hold on it. My grip on the animal slipped and it turned and attacked me.” Wow, I thought to myself, this is something out of some adventure television show, except I was hearing it firsthand. I wanted to ask John what kind of a ranger would let a young high school kid try to hold a species of reptile known for it’s attacks on humans, but decided to let John continue.

“The attack itself happened pretty quickly, but my parents tell me it took 5 minutes to get the croc off of me. All I can remember is the ranger yelling at me to be careful, because I might hurt the crocodile’s teeth.”

I couldn’t believe it, a ranger more concerned with the dental health of a killer reptile than the survival of a young schoolboy. This was a clear case of a poor sense of priorities. Being from California I wondered how many millions of dollars the case was settled for by the insurance companies. Still, John was standing here before me, healthy as can be.

Copyright © Bradley FordI was waiting for the moment that I always hear about when you do this kind of an interview, when the victim rolls up a shirtsleeve or pant leg to show the scars. How much damage can a crocodile do in five minutes? I was about to find out. I asked John if he was completely recovered. “Oh, I really am fine now. Everything healed quickly, but you can see the scar, see?” John held out his left hand and pointed at the knuckle of the index finger. “Look really carefully, see that little white spot there, that’s the scar!”

That’s the scar? What scar? That white pinprick is a scar? I couldn’t see anything, just an intact, unmarked hand. John read the puzzled look on my face as I tried to see this alleged scar on his knuckle. “Well, you didn’t ask how big the croc was, it was month-old hatchling, about 12 inches long.”

John gave me the sly look of a trickster who has told a tale well, and left me to wonder if I would ever have the insights of a true investigative reporter.

Our Other Crocodile Pages:

About Australia's Crocodiles
Being safe in Croc Country
An interview with a Crocodile Trainer

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