An 18-year-old Australian youth is recovering after being mauled by a crocodile after jumping into a river for a bet. Lee De Paauw was apparently boasting about how he could swim in the dangerous waters in Johnstone River, north Queensland at around 2.30 am on Saturday (18 March).

A saltwater crocodile – known as an estuarine crocodile or "saltie" – managed to grab his arm but De Paauw managed to punch it and get away. Friends rushed him to hospital in Cairns and doctors said he should make a full recovery.

"Reports from the scene are he was dared to jump into the water, which he did and unfortunately that area is well known for its crocodile population," local paramedic Neil Noble told 9 News. "We're just very grateful that he's survived this incident because it could have turned out to be quite fatal. Certainly to get out the water was absolutely vital in case that crocodile was able to get a good grip on him and do the death roll and then drown him."

English backpacker Sophie Paterson, 24, told the Courier and Mail: "He sort of made this claim 'I'll swim out and back', at first we just said 'don't be so ridiculous' and didn't think he was going to go through with it,'' said Paterson. "It all happened very fast, pretty much as soon as he jumped in, there was splashing and screaming."

Lee De Paauw
Lee De Paauw Facebook/Lee De Paauw

Fortunately for Mr De Paauw, the saltie he encountered was only about four feet long. Salties can reach sizes of up to six metres (20 feet) in length, weighing up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). They have the highest bite force recorded in any animal and are one of the few animals who routinely hunt humans when the opportunity arises. There have been at least eight fatal attacks in Australia alone since 1985.