'Devastated' American Kayakers Survive Congo Croc Attack

Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic watched in horror as guide was killed.

ByABC News
December 10, 2010, 1:27 PM

ABUJA, Nigeria Dec. 10, 2010— -- A pair of American kayakers who escaped a crocodile attack that killed their famed guide are "devastated" by the death of Hendrik Coetzee.

Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic could only watch in horror as a crocodile snatched Coetzee, 35, from his kayak on Tuesday as the three men paddled on the Lukuga River in Congo.

"They beached their boats about 500 meters from the incident in a very remote area," Ciaran Donnelly of the International Rescue Committee told ABC News. "They found villagers who lent them a cell phone to call the IRC."

The IRC and another humanitarian organization working in the area Solidarites International dispatched teams to evacuate them. Both men are still in Congo meeting with local authorities, but are expected to return the United States soon.

"They're obviously devastated and in shock over what happened," said Donnelly. "The reaction has been normal for anyone in that situation, but they also are reacting with a degree of professionalism."

The body of Coetzee, an acclaimed outdoorsman who wrote a blog called "The Great White Explorer," 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.

The three men had been on a kayaking expedition through Africa's Great Lakes region and the rivers that run through Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The expedition was sponsored by the outdoor clothing company Eddie Bauer, which issued a statement saying that the company is "saddened by the the tragic accident and express our deepest sympathies to Hendri's family and friends."

The men, all experienced kayakers, were also visiting development projects in the region and making a film about access to clean water.