Man Dies After Sea-snake Bite in Freak Accident

A British backpacker working on a trawler off the coast of northern Australia died after he was bitten by a sea snake.

The unnamed 23-year-old was bitten as he was pulling up a net on the vessel at around noon on October 4.

Paramedics went to the trawler, located around 70 nautical miles south of Groote Eylandt in Northern Territory's Gulf of Carpenteria, but were unable to save him.

St John Ambulance operations manager Craig Garraway told Northern Territory News, "They went out to the trawler, but unfortunately by the time they got out there he had passed away."

The vessel went to Borroloola, where the man was officially declared dead. The British High Commission Australia has been informed.

A British High Commission spokesperson said, "We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in the Northern Territory and are in contact with the Australian authorities."

A Northern Territory police spokeswoman said that inquiries were ongoing and there would be a postmortem.

Although sea snakes possess a strong venom, they have limited contact with humans, and bites are rare. In Australia, there are thought to be around 30 species of sea snakes.

According to the Marine Education Society of Australia, no deaths had previously been recorded from sea-snake bites in Australian waters.

Bryan Fry, marine expert from University of Queensland, said it was a "tragically unlucky accident."

"By and large they are very gentle animals, and people do go scuba diving with them all the time. But in a fishing trawler situation, where they've been potentially dragged through the water in a net, they will come up injured and perhaps looking to lash out," Fry told the BBC.

Earlier this year, Darwin fisherman Peter Davis was bitten by a sea snake that was snagged on his line, leaving him with a bad infection.

"I felt it hit my hand and spun around and dropped the rod and cut it off... it must have just hit me with its teeth," Davis said, according to

Research by the University of Melbourne found that snakes killed 27 people in Australia between 2000 and 2013.

The study, published in the Internal Medical Journal,found that more people were killed by horses than serpents during that period.

The death is the second of a British man working on a fishing boat in the north of Australia in five years. In November 2013, 20-year-old Ryan Donoghue was electrocuted while using a power tool while working on a prawn trawler near Cairns.