JOHANNESBURG | An acclaimed South African outdoorsman who was leading a kayaking expedition from the source of the White Nile into Congo was dragged from his craft by a crocodile as two Americans watched, horrified. The guide is presumed dead.
The two Americans paddled to safety after the Tuesday morning attack on the Lukuga River in Congo. The International Rescue Committee helped evacuate the Americans to a nearby town after Tuesday’s attack, said Ciaran Donnelly, the organization’s regional director in the Central African country.
The body of 35-year-old Hendrik Coetzee, who was living in Uganda, has not been recovered. The stretch of river where they were traveling is notoriously dangerous for its whitewater, and because of its high density of crocodiles and hippos.
“There are 3-ton hippos that will bite you in half,” one of the American kayakers wrote on his blog, quoting Mr. Coetzee, who was known as Hendri. “Stay off the banks because the crocs are having a bake and might fancy you for lunch. Basically, stay close behind me and follow my lead. Any questions?”
“We are saddened by the tragic accident and express our deepest sympathies to Hendri’s family and friends,” the company said.
The three men, all experienced kayakers, were part of a mission to document unexplored whitewater and development projects in the region.
In his online blog, Mr. Coetzee discussed the importance of trusting instincts and the group’s only rule — “nobody panic.”
In Mr. Coetzee’s most recent entry, dated Nov. 26, he wrote: “As I licked my dry lips and carefully checked that my spraydeck was on properly, I had the feeling I might be doing something I should not. I pushed through the doubt, and when I finally shot out the bottom of the rapid I was happy I did. It was just paranoia after all.” A spraydeck is a flexible cover for a boat, in particular for a kayak or a canoe.
“Dwarfed by lush green mountains rising up to 3,000 feet above us, we were drawn in ever deeper with a constant eye on the banks for trouble,” he wrote.
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