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Sunday, 12 December 2010

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Kayaker presumed dead after Congo crocodile attack

“JOHANNESBURG” An acclaimed outdoorsman who wrote movingly about testing himself against nature is presumed dead after a crocodile snatched him from his kayak while he led an American expedition from the source of the White Nile into the heart of Congo.

Two Americans being guided by 35-year-old South African Hendrik Coetzee on the grueling trip could only watch in horror. They paddled unharmed to safety after the Tuesday morning attack on the Lukuga River in Congo.

The International Rescue Committee, which runs development projects in the Central African nation, helped evacuate the Americans to a nearby town, Ciaran Donnelly, the organization’s regional director in Congo, said Thursday.

Coetzee’s body has not been recovered. The stretch of river where the trio was traveling is notoriously dangerous because of its whitewater, and numerous crocodiles and hippos.

In a blog called The Great White Explorer that chronicled the trip sponsored by the Eddie Bauer clothing and outdoor equipment company, Coetzee wrote about the thrill of taking to uncharted waters, including stretches that might soon disappear due to planned dams. He also described sometimes facing suspicion from military and other officials. One day ended in a storm: “As hard, warm drops trashed at our little selves and a pair of goats, we stood precariously on an unknown slope deep in the heart of Africa, for once my mind and heart agreed, I would never live a better day,” wrote Coetzee, who was known as Hendri.

A friend, Celliers Kruger, who owns a South African kayaking company, called Coetzee a legend.

“He was the bravest guy I’ve ever known,” Kruger said. “But he wasn’t crazy. He was very calculated and set the bar high for future exploration in Africa.” Paul and Mary Korbulic of Rogue River, Oregon, parents of Chris Korbulic, said they were vacationing in Costa Rica when they got an e-mail from their son saying he was safe, but had no details of the attack.

- AP

 

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