Search for golf balls turns deadly as crocodile kills diver

2014-12-05 00:00

MBOMBELA — A professional diver died in the jaws of a crocodile in a dam on the Skukuza golf course in the Kruger National Park on Wednesday night.

Jacques van der Sandt (29) was ­competing with a friend to see who could retrieve the most balls from the water ­hazard.

He met friends at the golf club for their regular round of golf and the group then spent time in the clubhouse.

“Jacques grew up in game parks and was used to crocodiles and hippos. He and a group of friends were at the clubhouse when Jacques challenged his friend, Jason Donaldson (26), to see who could retrieve the most golf balls,” Oubaas Coetzer, a spokesperson for the Skukuza police, said yesterday.

The party moved to the ninth green on the bank of Lake Panic.

“Both took off their clothes, apart from their underpants, and waded in to try and pick up golf balls. On the first attempt, they both came up with two balls, but that wasn’t enough, Jacques said it was ‘all square’ and they must look for more. ­Jason found two more and threw them on the grass,” Coetzer said.

“Jason climbed out of the water, but Jacques told him: ‘That’s not fair, we must look for more’.

“Jason got back in the water and was literally a metre from Jacques when a ­crocodile’s gaping jaws grabbed Jacques on his left side. Jason told me it was ­completely unexpected and the croc ­grabbed his friend very fast.”

Coetzer said Donaldson told him the reptile pulled Van der Sandt under ­“before Jacques had a chance to scream or struggle”.

Donaldson tried to grab the croc’s tail, but the animal had disappeared.

“He wanted to take his prey to the ­deepest part of the dam.”

Some of the bystanders jumped into the water to look for Van der Sandt and the police were called.

SANParks said in a statement regional game warden Don English was called to the scene at 11 pm and the search for Van der Sandt lasted two hours before the crocodile was spotted and shot in the nose in the hopes it would drop the body.

The animal was eventually shot dead and Van der Sandt’s body, covered in bite wounds, pulled from the dam.

“We told his parents, Schalk and ­Lorettha, what had happened and they came to the dam,” said Coetzer.

The postmortem examination found that he had drowned.

Van der Sandt was a professional diver and unmarried. His parents have worked in the game park since 1992.

SANParks ecologist Dr Danny Govender said crocodiles are hungry as they emerge from hibernation. “The animals are doing what’s natural: hunting for food. Unfortunately, a human life was lost.”

Lex Hes, a game ranger and safari guide with 35 years’ experience, said the ­crocodile is a very strong animal and can swim underwater without making a ripple on the surface. He said people must stand at least a metre from the water where crocodiles live.

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