Crocodile Attack Suspected after Man Disappears on Fishing Trip

A man who was reported missing after going on a fishing trip in Australia this week was likely attacked by a crocodile, authorities have said.

A search operation was launched on Thursday after police received a call from the wife of a 69-year-old man who failed to return from a trip to the Hinchinbrook Island area off the northern coast of Queensland and was not able to be reached via radio.

The man went fishing at around 3 p.m. in Gayundah Creek and had been expected to come back about an hour later. He has not yet been located.

Police recovered the man's damaged 8-foot dinghy at around 2.30 a.m. on Friday. It was found upside down close to the mouth of the Gayundah Creek on the southwestern side of Hinchinbrook Island, local law enforcement confirmed in a media release.

Officers contacted the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service for advice and assistance around 5 a.m Friday morning, and multiple teams were dispatched to the scene in order to help investigate the man's disappearance, the agency said in a statement.

Experts who examined the man's boat determined it was "highly likely" that a crocodile had been involved, however they could not comment on the "exact circumstances and sequence of events" that had taken place before he was declared missing.

A search for the animal suspected of being responsible remains ongoing. Officials have urged anyone in the area to report any crocodile sightings.

The Queensland environment department tweeted: "Wildlife officers will be out tonight surveying the area as part of the search effort to locate the crocodile believed to be involved in the disappearance of a man missing off Hinchinbrook Island."

BREAKING: We believe it's highly likely that a crocodile is involved in the disappearance of a man missing off Hinchinbrook Island. We're working with @QldPolice to investigate the matter. The exact circumstances & sequence of events remain unknown. pic.twitter.com/NicTILc9zH

— Queensland Environment (@QldEnvironment) February 12, 2021

#Hinchinbrook - Wildlife officers will be out tonight surveying the area as part of the search effort to locate the crocodile believed to be involved in the disappearance of a man missing off Hinchinbrook Island. Please report any crocodile sightings to us immediately. @QldPolice

— Queensland Environment (@QldEnvironment) February 12, 2021

The Queensland Government said further resources would be sent into the area today. It added: "Our thoughts are with the family of the missing man at this time."

Queensland police released a video on social media showing officers scouring the area for signs of the missing 69-year-old. It said the search was assisted by the Coast Guard, the environment department, the State Emergency Service and local fishermen.

Searching continues on the water for a man missing at Hinchinbrook Island. pic.twitter.com/FJLxe5peK1

— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) February 12, 2021

As of Friday, it remained unclear what type of crocodile was suspected of being involved in the attack and what damage on the boat led to the experts' assessment.

The region is home to saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. The saltwater is the larger species of the two, growing to more than 13-foot in length. "Estuarine crocodiles can pose a danger to humans," the government warned in a fact-sheet.

It adds: "The freshwater crocodile is smaller and more timid. While they can inflict injury on humans if provoked, they have never been implicated in a human fatality."

Residents who are fishing in waters known to contain crocodiles are urged to stand at least 16 foot back from the water's edge, and advised not to retrieve any lures.

saltwater crocodile in river
An estuarine crocodile, better known as the saltwater or saltie, is enticed with meat out of the Adelaide river near Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory on September 2, 2008. GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty