As a fully grown man ran for dear life from a bloody crocodile-attack scene, a quick-thinking 16-year old risked his own life by running in the opposite direction, wading into the water and rescuing the victims by fighting off the crocodile.The boy’s name is Ookeditse Bakae and he is a Form 2 student at Moeti Junior Secondary School in Maun. The incident happened last month on a Sunday around nine in the morning. Ookeditse was walking from his home to another part of the village, following a route that took him across the Thamalakane River. He remembers pausing his journey under a riverside tree from where he could see three women and one man harvesting a tuber water lily (a local delicacy) called tswii in the river. Tswii grows in both shallow and deep waters.
At the time that Ookeditse first laid his eyes on the quartet, all were harvesting the tswii in shallow waters. Shortly thereafter however, two women (a mother and daughter as it would turn out) fatefully broke away and moved into deep waters, with the daughter leading the way.Submerged in the water and evidently unbeknown to the pair was a crocodile. One theory is that the daughter may have unwittingly stepped on it. Whatever the case, when the animal made contact, it clamped its jaws around her waist and locked it in an iron grip, its sharp teeth sinking into her flesh. Coming from behind, the mother attempted to dislodge her daughter from the crocodile’s jaws, at which point, the crocodile spun around, briefly releasing the daughter, and crushed the mother’s arm with its teeth, hideously mauling it.
Taking stock of the situation, the woman and the man harvesting tswii in the shallow water hightailed it to the river bank, frightened out of their wits.Ookeditse ran in the opposite direction, grabbing two stones from the ground as he did and wading into the water. At this point, the croc once more had its jaws around the daughter and with her one good arm, the mother was once more trying to rescue her daughter. Upon reaching the scene, Ookeditse says that he first tried to help the mother free her daughter. They both pulled her by the legs but soon realised that was not a good idea because they were only adding to the physical pain that the captive woman so clearly felt.
Stones cupped in each hand, Ookeditse started pummelling the crocodile repeatedly on the nose.With the tables turned and itself feeling pain from the impact of the heavy stone blows, the crocodile let go of the daughter but immediately made for Ookeditse. He relaunched the counter-attack, this time striking the croc’s snout until the crocodile retreated and swam away.At this point a crowd was fathering on the river banks and as he walked both victims to shallow water, a male spectator jumped into the water to help. This happened when Ookeditse had just completed Form One – he starts Form Two this coming Tuesday.A video taken minutes after the horrific attack is hard to watch. The mother’s mangled arm is dangling by a thread of muscle tissue and she is heard to complain that the arm is too heavy for her. The daughter lies sprawled on the ground, a garment thrown over the lower part of her body where the crocodile evidently bit her.
Blood is still oozing from a crude tourniquet wrapped around a wrist that until 15 minutes ago, had the right hand fully attached to it.Those on the scene called the police and hospital emergency numbers numerous times but couldn’t get through. Ultimately, some Good Samaritans tore off their own clothes to staunch the blood that was gushing out from the bite wounds and used their own car to rush the victims to the Letsholathebe Primary Hospital. The tissue thread holding the mother’s arm would give out and the arm fell off inside the hospital before she received proper medical attention. One of the Good Samaritans would later visit the victims in the hospital after they had been admitted. She found the daughter’s bed sheets drenched red with fresh blood and on pleading with staff to change the sheets, says she was told by a doctor that sheets are changed once a day and that both patients were about to be taken to Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital in Francistown.
There is very sad irony to this story. In September last year, Ookeditse’s own sister, Boipelo, had a brush with death when a crocodile dragged her into the river by the thigh. She had been collecting firewood by the riverside when the crocodile pounced. Fortunately, the attack a man passing by heard her screams, rushed to the scene and was able to save her in good time. The mother, Susan Bakae, says that the rescue effort was aided by the fact that the crocodile was young and couldn’t put up much of a fight when the man counter-attacked. Boipelo, a Form One student, now bears a scar from the croc’s bite wounds. The mother says that the Maun office of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks told her that her daughter didn’t qualify for compensation.Human instinct is such that if you see someone in trouble, you immediately want to help.
As the mother trying to rescue her daughter from the mouth of the crocodile, Ookeditse says that he acted merely acted reflexively and that it was the first time that he had ever come face to face with a crocodile at close quarters and under such circumstances.In under 10 years, he will complete his studies and the career choice that he is mulling for now seems to be the most appropriate.
“I want to join BDF,” he says, referring to the Botswana Defence Force. That makes perfect sense: he has saved the lives of two people at only 16 years and will certainly be able to protect the nation when he comes of age.