26 November, 2021
LUCKY ESCAPE: Mareeba croc attack survivor speaks out
MAREEBA father-of-two Marco Tiraboschi is still struggling to come to terms with what happened when he was attacked by a crocodile while fishing along the banks of a Far Northern river.
By Robyn Holmes and Carl Portella
Talking exclusively to The Express, Marco counts himself lucky to be alive after a 4-4.5m croc dragged him into the water while he was fishing on the McIvor River.
He says he feels guilty about what happened and takes full responsibility for what he described as a careless act that could have been devastating for his family.
“Complacency and carelessness placed me too close to the water in such a high-risk location,” he said.
“I had seen what was most probably the same croc in that location several years earlier. I’m disappointed with myself that I didn’t remind myself of that at the time.”
He said his actions on 3 November and, in hindsight on other previous occasions, were irresponsible.
“I have a young family and what they would have had to go through if I had not been so lucky, knowing that I was entirely at fault, upsets me the most,” Marco said.
Clearly still traumatised by the event, Marco relayed what happened that day when the family took one of their regular camping trips to their property.
“Around 8.30am, before leaving camp, as we always do, Tammy and I went over our emergency action plan in the event of an incident and me not returning. I described in detail the route that I would take and approximate timings.”
As a person who loves to take long bush walks and fish along the way on his own, Marco explained that he also always equips himself with his GPS, compass, EPIRB and basic first aid before taking off from the campsite.
After fishing at various locations along the river, he eventually arrived at a water hole he knew well and that had been good fishing in the past.
“I knew it had fish and I actually knew there was a croc there – I’d seen it there 2-3 years earlier,” he said.
On this occasion, Marco saw a scrub bull there which should have been a red flag that a croc might be in the area and laying in wait for the bull.
“I saw a scrub bull leave that spot before I approached the water and failed to recognise the quite significant heightened risk to my safety,” he said.
“I walked carelessly without thought of now an increased danger to within 1-2 metres of the water. I noticed almost immediately, three metres in front of me in the water, a movement towards me, and within seconds I recognised what it was.
“It was a head of a large croc and that’s all I had time for – just to see it. It just, bang, came at me and only knocked me over initially.
“I kicked at it, as well struck it with my fishing rod for awhile. Eventually it got one foot. Kicking with my other leg, I managed to get it to release but shortly after, it got the other one (foot) and eventually it sort of pinned my legs and went to pull me in.”
Marco then managed to grab a tree root or branch with his left hand as the croc attempted to pull him into deeper water. He then felt a significant muscle tear near his left shoulder.
“About a third of my pectoral came off the humus so I lost that grip and it took me in,” he recounted.
Within about five seconds, Marco found himself being dragged into deep water.
He thought to himself: “Remain calm and not resist as to continue fighting might possibly cause the croc to spin.”
Marco had the forethought to take a big breath before he was pulled under by the croc.
“Water clarity was good and I saw the croc’s head and neck to my right.
“I purposely grabbed my hunting knife and just hit it as hard as I could just forward of the shoulder blade. A head shot would have done nothing (it’s just bone), so I hit it forward of the shoulder and the knife sunk straight in,” he said.
“It was like a 240-volt hit it, I felt it let go instantly and felt it take off.”
Marco was in about 1.5m of water at the time but didn’t panic, instead started to calmly breast stroke through the water until his boots could reach the ground.
“I felt the ground so then I walked up out of the water and onto land for a further six metres - at the time it felt enough, I had this inkling I got it by surprise,” he said.
“It took approximately 15 seconds to move from the croc release to being safe on land.
This for me was my time of greatest fear as I felt that I may unbelievably survived this, only to still possibly be robbed of this gift if it came back at me.”
After assessing his injuries and realising he was “structurally OK”, Marco tied his boots tightly to provide some compression to the wounds. Thankfully, his boots were military standard and most likely saved his feet from being mangled by the jaws of the croc.
He then set off towards his vehicle, about 3km from the location, after which he drove back to the campsite and informed his wife, Tammy, that he needed medical assistance.
“I said to Tammy, ‘I’m so sorry, we have to go to Cooktown, a croc got me. I’m cut and most likely need stitches’,” he said. The couple and their two children set off for a 1.5 hour trip to the Cooktown Hospital where he was treated initially then flown to Cairns.
Marco considers himself to be extremely lucky to be alive and attributes the quality and strength of his boots and the fact that he had his six-inch hunting knife on his belt, as helping him to minimise his injuries and ultimately, making the difference between life and death.
“Any one thing could have made a difference – I had a lot of luck coming my way,” he said.
“I have come to terms with the intensity and the closeness to death that I was. I have been told since that to survive an attack from a large croc, on your own, and to find yourself under water and come out of it is zero because no one ever has.”
When asked whether he would be buying a Lotto ticket any time soon, Marco replied: “Surviving this, I don’t need to buy a lotto ticket, I’ve won the lotto.
“I fought like my life depended on it and it did. I don’t want to give myself credit for that, because how can I take credit for that when I put myself in that danger.”
He says complacency so nearly could have cost him his life. “I didn’t think, I was careless. It’s that familiarity – you’ve been there before and nothing happened. Here’s the wrong attitude I’ve taken - that is what’s the chance of a croc being there ready to strike? Well guess what, it happened.”
Marco says he will completely change his approach when he returns to the area to fish in the future.
“From now on, I will approach any waterway which even has a small chance of a croc in it with the assumption that the croc is not only there, but also right in front of you, ready to strike.”