Renee Dessommes, 39, a tourist who had been enjoying the sun, sea and sand in San Pedro, almost met her death when a 12-foot long crocodile attacked her in the sea in San Pedro Sunday night. Dessommes will return to her country on Monday, but with more memories (and scars) than she bargained for, having had to seek medical treatment that resulted in her receiving almost 100 stitches on the upper left shoulder and arm.
The very rare attack by the salt water happened sometime after 9:30 pm, after Dessommes and her colleagues had finished dinner. She went in the water next to the dock of their vacation rental to look for a lost diamond earring that one of her friends had dropped into the sea. That was when the crocodile saw the opportunity to strike and grabbed her by the shoulder. Thankfully, there were people on the dock who reacted quickly and were able to force the croc to release the tourist. The croc reportedly swam off and the injured woman was taken out of the water.
The American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) learned about the incident and responded shortly after. Crocodile Conservationist with ACES, Chris Summer told the Reporter that they sighted the crocodile in the water, but it was too late at night to buy bait to trap the animal.
“We were out all night setting traps and searching for the croc but there was no sign of him. We’ll be out again every night until we trap him, at which point he’ll be transferred to the mainland where I believe he’ll remain in captivity,” Summers told us.
Summers informed that the incident has left the tourist understandably traumatized, but that he understands she was resting at her hotel. He said that he believes the croc is still in the area since they are territorial and that he has probably been living near that part of the coast as part of his routine patrol.
Summer strongly urged people in the area to stay out of the water at night, during the hours of dusk and dawn because that is the crocs’ prime hunting hours. “Anywhere there’s mangrove has the potential for there to be crocs in the area so it’s wise to show precautionary measures like discarding of fishing and food scraps properly, not swimming during hunting hours or swimming in the mangrove,” he further advised.
The incident was an unfortunate one, Summers pointed out, saying that this level of aggression for this species of croc was unusual. “We are looking into what could have caused this behavior. Thousands of people live in close proximity to crocodiles, thankfully incident-free. Through increased education and outreach, we hope to avoid something like this from happening again and we wish the lady a speedy recovery,” he remarked, informing that ACES will make a full report to the Belize Forest Department, under whose authorization they work.
Meanwhile, Belize Tourism Board Director, Karen Bevans indicated that immediately, warning signs will now be developed to place in the area to prevent a repeat of the attack. She added that the BTB usually works with the embassies, consulates, or port agents if it’s a cruise passenger or any related organization, to assist tourists who might fall into distress caused by unforeseen incidents – this being one such case.