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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 08:37 GMT
Friends witness crocodile killing
 Ashely McGough and Shaun Blowers
The two friends were eventually winched to safety
A crocodile has mauled a man to death in Australia's remote Northern Territory - in front of two friends who scrambled up a tree.

The teenagers went to their friend's aid, but the crocodile turned on them - still with the man's body in its jaws.

The two 19-year-olds were forced up a tree, where they waited 22 hours to be rescued by helicopter.

There is no sign of 22-year-old Brett Mann, nor of the four-metre-long (13-foot) saltwater crocodile.

The authorities in the Northern Territory say heavy rains caused by Cyclone Debbie have allowed such fierce predators to move further inland.

Five minutes later (the crocodile) was back, stalking the tree. He just hung around us all night
Shaun Blowers

The two teenage survivors, Ashely McGough and Shaun Blowers, told on Tuesday of their agonising wait for help after their friend was dragged away to his death.

The three friends had been riding quad bikes and had stopped by a river.

Mann was swept out by a strong current and, as the other two went to his rescue, one of them spotted the crocodile.

"I went past the croc," said Shaun Blowers. "I didn't see it. Ashley screamed out `croc, croc'... we just swam to the nearest tree and straight up we went.

"We were looking around for Brett (but) didn't hear a thing, didn't hear a scream, no splashing or anything.

"Two minutes later, the croc brought Brett to the surface and pretty much showed him off to us and off he swam.

"Five minutes later, he was back stalking the tree around us. He just hung around us all night and pretty much all the next morning," he said.

With the crocodile still lurking beneath the tree, the two men were finally winched to safety by helicopter.

Police said they had been fortunate to survive.

The BBC's Phil Mercer says the night was so dark that the two were unable to see each other, or to tell how far the water was rising beneath them.

Saltwater crocodiles are the world's largest reptiles and are aggressive and dangerous.

About 100,000 live in tropical northern Australia.

They are believed to have killed more than a dozen people in the past 20 years.

The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"His friends survived to tell the tale, but only just"

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