A 51-year-old woman was bitten by a crocodile in a remote waterhole near Wyndham on Saturday and had to walk and crawl for hours to get help.
After emerging from the waterhole bleeding from a mass of puncture wounds to her foot and ankle, artist Jane Dennis was forced to hike for five painstaking hours.
Even then, it was another three hours before she received medical attention for a bite that had started festering in the 40C heat.
Her harrowing journey started at Digger’s Rest Station on Saturday morning, when she and two other women set out for a group of waterholes that locals had recommended as a good place to swim.
After a two-hour drive, it was another two hours on foot through the Cockburn Range before Ms Dennis, her friend Danielle Ryder, 32, and a Dutch woman named Babette, 41, had the chance to cool off.
Ms Ryder said they threw a big rock into the waterhole to check for freshwater crocodiles, but nothing surfaced.
“So about midday we were all just getting our gear off ready to jump in, when (Jane) glided in and let out a yell and said, ‘Guys, a croc’s just grabbed me,.’” she said.
“She was really panicking and trying to get out fast. She came out and grabbed her foot and she was losing a lot of blood.
“The Dutch girl who came out with us actually had some bandages in her backpack. She’s a vet nurse and she just went into take care of patient mode and bandaged her up.”
The women then embarked on an arduous journey back to their four-wheel drive, with Ms Dennis limping, and eventually crawling on her hands and knees, through a dry, rocky creek bed.
“It took us about three hours walking really slowly before Jane said, ‘I’m stopping; I’m not walking anymore,’” Ms Ryder said.
“That’s when I finally got phone reception and called Diggers Rest and Roderick said he’d come out and bring first aid supplies.
“(Jane) was just crawling on her hands and knees and dragging herself along and screaming out in pain the whole time.
“Her foot swelled right up, that’s when she had to crawl. She had pain shooting all the way up to her hip.”
By the time station owner Roderick Woodland found the women, it was 5pm and almost dark.
Another three hours later, the group made it to Wyndham Hospital, where, according to Ms Ryder, the 51-year-old was lucky not to lose her foot.
“Her foot was pretty lacerated. There teeth marks all around it. (The crocodile) grabbed her from behind where her heel was, under her Achilles and under the arch of her foot,” she said.
“It’s not a wound you can just stitch up; it has to drain out for a while. These freshwater crocs eat a lot of dead things.
“She’s spent a couple of days in the hospital, but she’s pretty lucky they didn’t have to amputate her foot.”
Despite her familiarity with the remote top end of WA, Mr Ryder said her friend’s experience had made her more wary of what could be lurking in waterholes.
“Everyone up here has been swimming in freshwater croc holes since we were born,” she said.
“It was dark, deep, murky water, but it must have been a fair sized one.
“You definitely don’t want to be out here by yourself.”