A teenage British backpacker has been mauled by a crocodile while travelling with friends on a gap year holiday in southern Africa.
Amelie Osborn-Smith, 18 and from Hampshire, had been enjoying a day of white water rafting in the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls in Zambia when she was attacked by the 10ft reptile which put her into a ‘death roll’.
A male friend ran to help and punched the reptile until it released her, before she was bandaged up and airlifted to hospital for life-saving surgery with doctors battling to save her leg.
Father Brent Osborn-Smith, 60, an Army Major-turned-osteopath, told MailOnline that she had been dangling her leg over the side of the canoe after being advised by guides that the water was safe when the attack happened.
‘The crocodile saw her leg dangling in the water and thought “there’s lunch”, he said.
Amelie Osborn-Smith, 18, was rafting in the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls, Zambia, when she was attacked by a 10ft crocodile which bit her leg
Ms Osborn-Smith, who is also the daughter of a German Baroness, had been on a gap year holiday at the time of the attack.
It is thought she had recently graduated from St Swithun’s School, an all-girls boarding school in Winchester, and was taking some time out with friends.
The attack happened as the group relaxed between rafting sessions.
Mr Osborn-Smith said: ‘She’s a very sensible girl, but on this occasion she was being guided by the rafting company and it was on their advice…
Ms Osborn-Smith was taking a break from rafting near Victoria Falls (pictured) in waters that guides had told her were safe when the attack took place
‘She wasn’t actually swimming but just sitting on the boat and the crocodile saw her leg dangling in the water and thought “there’s lunch”.
‘She’s in a pretty bad state at the moment in Zambia and we’re doing our best to try and get her back to have some proper definitive care here, but obviously with a crocodile bite there’s a huge risk of infection and she’s got a very severely damaged leg. It’s quite a distressing situation.
‘She’s been stabilised as best they can but it’s still pretty touch and go and we’re trying to arrange appropriate consultants here lined up.
The other issue is that Zambia is now on the Covid red list, so there are various hoops which need to stepped through quite carefully. ‘
Mr Osborn-Smith explained the family’s close link to Africa: ‘My daughter was on a gap year to Zambia and it’s a country we are fairly familiar with – her grandmother has a farm on the Zambezi river, so we have spent a bit of time there.’
The hospital where she is recovering is located in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, 240 miles from where the attack took place.
It is not clear exactly when Ms Osborn-Smith was attacked.
The crocodile (file image) put Ms Osborn-Smith into a ‘death roll’ before a male friend began punching the reptile until it let her go
Osborn-Smith was airlifted 240 miles from Victoria Falls to the capital Lusaka where surgeons performed a life-saving operation and battled to save her leg
While attacks at the falls are rare, they are not unprecedented.
In 2018, a Zimbabwean woman canoeing above the falls with her British fiancé had her arm bitten off by a crocodile which attacked their boat.
Zanele Ndlovu, a former national tennis player, had been enjoying a day out with Briton Jamie Fox when the reptile attacked and punctured their raft in April.
Forced into the water, Ms Ndlovu had her left hand bitten and right arm torn off above the elbow in a horrifying attack just days before their wedding.
She was rushed to hospital where medics managed to stitch up the wound and save her life, before getting married in the hospital chapel the following month.
Zanele told The Chronicle newspaper in Zimbabwe at the time: ‘The waters were very calm and we had guides and there were about seven boats in the water when the crocodile just jumped out.
‘It jumped out of the water and bit a chunk of my right arm together with the side of the canoe which started deflating and it all just happened so fast.
‘The crocodile bit me again and pulled me into the water. My husband was thrown out the opposite side so the boat was between the two of us.
‘Jamie swam over to where I was struggling with the crocodile that was trying to pull me to the bottom of the river and grabbed my waist and with the other hand he rained blows down on the crocodile.
‘It all happened so fast we have conflicting accounts of events. The guides saw us battling the crocodile and joined in and the crocodile finally let go.
‘The pain was excruciating but Jamie was by my side and I summoned the strength to fight through it and although he was in shock he calmed me down.’