A saltwater crocodile has killed a holidaying snorkeller in India’s Andaman Islands.
American Lauren Failla, 25, from Morris County in New Jersey, was holidaying with her boyfriend and had decided to go snorkelling in Neil Cove, at Barefoot Resort on Havelock Island.
Details have only just emerged of the incident, which occurred on 28 April. After Failla disappeared, it took two days for her body to be found.
Failla had graduated at Sotheby’s Art Institute in London and was looking to obtain a two-year British work visa.
Tragically for her family, her death comes after that of her older sister, Emily, who died in a Washington rock-climbing accident four years ago.
Saltwater crocodiles are relatively large compared to India’s other types. They can drag down and drown animals as large as a buffalo. But attacks on humans are relatively rare.
Over the past quarter century, sea crocodile attacks on humans around the Andamans have averaged about one a year, four of them fatal, according to a US State Department spokesman.
The spokesman, Michael Tran, said that the Indian authorities were investigating Failla’s death which, according to a cousin of Failla, was brought on by a lack of local information.
Failla, “not a big risk-taker”, would “not have risked swimming” if there had been “proper warnings and statements that there are in fact man-eating crocodiles nearby”, Gloria McLean Hiratsuka, communicating from South Korea, told Morris County’s Daily Record.
Barefoot Scuba has said that the accident came as “a shock to us all”, and that it “never thought that there was any risk of such an incident ever happening at sea”.
“Never has a crocodile been spotted in the area and such an incident has never happened before here,” a spokesman told Divernet.
“This is in fact the first ever recorded instance in Andaman of a crocodile attack outside its normal habitat, in other words in the sea and not by a mangrove creek.”
The dive centre is taking the precaution of avoiding locations, including some shallow areas even though some way from creeks, where a similar incident might be possible “until the crocodile is caught and a thorough study of the area is undertaken”.
Barefoot is also working with the Government’s Forest Department in the bid to track the crocodile which took Failla, along with any others in the area.
It has funded a visit by the Madras Crocodile Bank and provided boats, traps and other infrastructure to help the experts in their work.
In the future, said Barefoot, signs would “be placed on the beaches” and other tourism operators would, it was sure, have “measures put in place to prevent such an incident being repeated”.