'I was clawing onto her arm': Crocodile attack survivor recalls tragedy that killed best friend

Leeann Mitchell says she will never move on from the horrific crocodile attack in which her best friend was killed.

Ms Mitchell and her best friend, Cindy Waldron, were both snatched by a massive croc in the May, 2016 incident which happened in the shallows of tropical, isolated Thornton Beach near Cape Tribulation in north Queensland.

“It just happened, Cindy’s back was to the water and mine was to the beach,” Ms Mitchell told Sunday Night’s Denham Hitchcock.

“We were pulled. It was incredible, it was absolutely incredible.”

Ms Mitchell had just won her battle with breast cancer and she went on a holiday with Ms Waldron, her childhood friend, to celebrate.

This is the first time Ms Mitchell has spoken publicly to share her extraordinary story of survival.

“I started trying to punch, trying to hit, trying to fight and I was screaming,” she said.

“I was clawing onto [Cindy’s] arm, I was trying to get the other arm up to grab her, and then, she was gone.”

In the deep, dark water, Ms Mitchell swam down trying to find her friend.

She called for help in vain – at such a remote location, emergency services were a long way away.

“I was screaming Cindy’s name, screaming and screaming her name.”

Ms Mitchell was taken to hospital with puncture wounds to her arm, suffering from shock.

“We always talked about how it would be to be those little old ladies together, laughing and sharing our memories.

“We would always, always be together, and, now we’re not.”

A few days later, a four-metre crocodile was found and killed. Inside were the remains of Cindy Waldron.

Across northern Australia, crocodiles are thriving in unexpected places and a debate is raging between those who want to protect the native reptiles and those who want to cull them.

Catching problem crocodiles like the one that took Ms Waldron is a dangerous business.

Grahame Webb is Australia’s foremost expert on crocs and he has a controversial solution.

He has suggested that they could be culled by trophy hunters, who would pay local businesses, and the government, to shoot crocodiles.

“They are going to start eating people and everyone is going to want to wipe them out again.”

“I wouldn’t worry, I can’t see why that worries people, does it really matter who pulls the trigger?”

But Australia Zoo’s Terri Irwin is vehemently opposed to culling. She says the answer is education in schools and more signs at beaches and swimming holes.

Mrs Irwin’s late husband, Steve, championed croc conservation and now she’s carrying on his work along with their children, Bindi And Bob.

“Grahame (Webb) is an interesting person because he has been working with crocodiles his whole life in a consumptive manner,” she said.