A 71-year-old man has lived to tell the tale of how he survived a crocodile attack on the Olifants River in Limpopo.
Explaining the incident to emergency services‚ Peter Knottenbelt said: “My granddaughter and I were crossing the Olifants River by foot when I inadvertently stepped on the back of a 3m crocodile.
“The moment I stood on the crocodile’s back‚ it reacted with violence‚ gripping my right leg in its jaws and throwing me from side to side. I heard bones in my leg being crushed.
“While I fought for my life‚ I thought it was futile against such a large predator.”
Knottenbelt was on a family outing and his relatives were on the bank of the river‚ watching in horror.
Miraculously‚ rangers came to his rescue minutes later.
“As our family members watched the gruesome situation that was unfolding‚ some rangers who own another guesthouse about 100m downstream heard the screams for help‚” he said.
The rangers got into the water and attempted to scare off the angry crocodile‚ but this was not enough. Knottenbelt was forced to fight the angry animal with his bare hands.
“I managed to find its head while it was swimming into deeper water for the inevitable drowning‚” Knottenbelt said.
“I forced my thumbs into its eye sockets with all my might. I think this went on for about five minutes‚ after which I believe the croc was disoriented and literally spat me out close to a sandbank.”
One of the rangers jumped into the river‚ dragging Knottenbelt to the shore‚ severely injured after an ordeal lasting about 20 minutes.
Later, treatment revealed a broken sternum with bruising to the heart‚ six broken ribs‚ a punctured lung‚ massive tissue damage‚ a dislocated right collarbone‚ a fractured scapular‚ two broken wrists‚ internal bleeding and multiple fractures of his right leg and foot.
Following treatment in Polokwane‚ Knottenbelt was airlifted to Johannesburg for intensive care and operations.
“At this stage‚ I was entirely unconscious under sedation.
“I was placed in trauma ICU at a hospital in Johannesburg at 2am on January 7.
“Twelve surgeries followed during my induced coma over the next 14 days.”
After 44 days of intensive care‚ Knottenbelt was transferred to a general ward and then to a rehabilitation centre close to his home in Benoni.
He believes he would have lost his life if it weren’t for the professionals involved in his rescue and rehabilitation.
“I could easily have passed on had it not been for the professional care given to me by the medical and helicopter staff. I also believe that the many prayers and messages of support have been a driving force in my recovery‚” he said.
Knottenbelt said he was now focusing on the development of young people.
“This second chance at life stimulates me further to support humanity in any way I can.”