Croc attack victim did it all for love

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By James Law

The Queenslander who was mauled by a crocodile after being dared to jump into a river says he did it all for love.

Lee De Paauw, 18, has been making the most of his national notoriety, giving interviews on TV and radio after being mauled by a crocodile during a late-night swim at the weekend.

The Innisfail teen was drinking with a group mates when he was dared to jumping off a wharf into the Johnstone River in far-north Queensland.

Almost as soon as he hit the water - known for being infested with crocodiles - one of the killer reptiles latched onto him.

Paramedics said he was lucky to have survived, however, the horrific attack had an upside for the young man.

He managed to score a movie date with British backpacker Sophie Paterson, who he was out to impress when he jumped in the river.

"It was all worth it. She's beautiful, caring and kind," he said.

De Paauw has recounted the horrific attack to Nine News with classic Aussie understatement, while still stained in his own blood.

"I was thinking f***, I'm gone, I'm gone for sure," he said from his hospital bed.

The cheeky teenager explained how he was trying to impress Miss Paterson, who he had just met.

The fact that he had downed "10 cups of goon" may have contributed to his bravado.

"I started telling about how backpackers are more likely to get eaten by a crocodile than Australians. So, we decided to go down to the river and test the theory," De Paauw said.

He jumped into the river and the croc caught him in its powerful jaws and dragged him about six metres.

"It started shaking its head and carrying on," he said.

Acting on instinct, De Paauw punched the croc in the snout, but just before it could perform the death roll, he gouged the beast in the eye.

This split-second decision probably saved his life, because the croc let go.

"I swam back to the stairs with one floppy arm and pulled myself out," he said.

Le De Paauw on his hospital bed after undergoing arm surgery. Photo / Channel 9
Le De Paauw on his hospital bed after undergoing arm surgery. Photo / Channel 9

Nine News journalist Zara James asked: "Do you understand that most of the country thinks that you're one of the stupidest people around right now?"

Continued below.

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"Yep, I do," De Paauw replied.

"What's your response to that?" James asked.

"I'm not really. I'm just, I dunno, trying to prove a point."

It seems De Paauw is not embarrassed by the looking foolish in the national headlines.

"Haters gonna hate," he said.

Two bones in his left arm were broken in the attack, and he is sporting gouge marks at the top and bottom of the limb.

De Paauw also bragged about his punch-on with the croc on Nova FM yesterday morning.

"It took me out about six metres from the wharf. I hit it once on the nose, it loosened a bit," he told Fitzy and Wippa.

"I got another hit in and it was right on its eye. I was lucky because it just dropped me."

Although he won a date with his backpacker crush, her comments to Channel 9 may not help his street cred all that much.

"I've never heard a guy scream like that," Miss Paterson said of witnessing the attack.

"You know, he was obviously terrified and he was obviously in agony. You know, it was just sheer panic."

The crocodile attack was one of two in the Innisfail area within 24 hours.

Tragically, however, Cairns spearfisherman Warren Hughes, 35, did not survive when taken by a croc earlier in the day, while spearfishing at nearby Palmers Point.

Despite being described as super-cautious by those who had fished with him, Mr Hughes' body was pulled from the water about 8am Monday.

Water police said his injuries were consistent with being mauled by a large crocodile.

He disappeared on Saturday and a search was sparked after his empty dinghy was discovered with his speargun nearby.

A crocodile measuring at least four metres was seen near the dinghy on Sunday night and charged at a police boat, behaviour that is consistent for a crocodile protecting a food source.

- Additional reporting: AAP

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