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Offbeat

Crocodile bit arm off bride-to-be. Five days later she got married anyway

Zimbabwe’s Zenele Ndlovu wore a billowing white gown when she married on Saturday, and a gauze bandage over the stump of her right arm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 12:54pm

Zenele Ndlovu wore white on her wedding day, from her seemingly endless veil to her snow-coloured dress, all the way down to the gauze wound tightly around what remains of her right arm.

The venue had changed, but the wedding date stayed the same.

Saturday was the big day for Ndolvu and her now-husband Jamie Fox, who wed in a hospital chapel in southwestern Zimbabwe just five days after a five-metre crocodile attacked their canoe and severed her arm with a huge bite.

Ndlovu and Fox were on an adventure tour on the expansive Zambezi River, among the longest in Africa that feeds into Victoria Falls, when a crocodile broadsided their inflated canoe.

She toppled into the river as the Nile crocodile held the canoe in its jaws, Adventure Zone tour company owner Brent Williamson said on Tuesday.

Williamson, who co-led the tour, rushed to rescue Ndlovu from the water. The crocodile bit his canoe, puncturing the pontoon and sending him into the water alongside a guide trainee.

Ndlovu possibly stepped on the crocodile, Williamson said, and it clamped down on her right biceps.

Another trainee, identified only as Norman, gripped her life jacket and tried to pull her into his canoe, but the force of the crocodile also sent him falling into the river.

He never let go, even as the other trainee pulled him out and set him back in the canoe.

It was then, Williamson said, the crocodile went for the kill.

“The croc kept holding on and then attempted the death roll,” he said, describing the violent, crashing tumble crocodiles use to drown and dismember their prey for easier swallowing.

The roll broke Ndlovu’s arm, tore away her biceps and stripped her limb of upper ligaments, Williamson said. The crocodile then relented and released her.

Williamson climbed into another canoe and provided first aid on a river bank while a rescue helicopter arrived 45 minutes later.

She arrived at a nearby hospital, stabilised, and then, he said, went to the Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo by ambulance, nearly 500km from Victoria Falls. Doctors immediately decided to amputate her arm, he said.

She and Fox were married at the hospital’s chapel.

Her husband recounted the ordeal for Associated Press.

“In one week we went from shock and agony to a truly amazing experience,” Fox, of the United Kingdom, said. The couple had dated for 18 months, and he proposed in February.

Ndlovu and Fox appear accustomed to adventure on the Zambezi, which feeds into the mighty Victoria Falls.

Photos on Facebook show the couple canoeing last March with a different company also based near the falls.

The couple did not immediately return requests for comment, though to be fair, they are busy.

Ndlovu was discharged from the hospital on Monday, and Fox told the AP they need to obtain a visa so she can settle in the United Kingdom.

“And then we will think of the honeymoon,” he said. Williamson said the attack was an extraordinary event, and the first one in 12 years of operating on the upper Zambezi, though crocodile attacks are a common occurrence in the country.

Last month, a woman was killed by a crocodile outside the capital of Harare when she crossed a river to collect firewood. And in January, a tourist was killed in a national park by a crocodile.

The Nile crocodile, considered the second-largest reptile in the world, is commonly found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, earning its reputation as a “man-eater” species and blamed for a few hundred deaths and disappearances each year across Africa.

Williamson said another tour encountered the same crocodile from April 30 to Wednesday. It tried to attack again, but no one was injured.

Ndlovu and Fox’s story is just beginning, but Friday may have been the end of the crocodile.

Park officials and one of Williamson’s guides led a hunt party and shot the crocodile in the lung, a method used to drown it. The crocodile slipped into the water and disappeared; its body has not been found.

But it will be easily identifiable beyond the gunshot. It’s notable for another reason, he said.

The crocodile, fiercely territorial, lords the river as the biggest around.