31 May 2016

Crocodile victim's family on way to Queensland

6:44 pm on 31 May 2016

Family of a New Zealand woman feared dead after being taken by a crocodile are heading to far north Queensland as the search for any sign of her continues.

Cindy Waldron

Cindy Waldron was snatched by a crocodile on Sunday night. Photo: Facebook

Cindy Waldron, 46, was attacked while wading in water with her friend Leann Mitchell at Thornton Beach, north of Cairns, late on Sunday.

The ABC reported the two old Hamilton school friends had been celebrating Ms Mitchell's recovery from cancer.

Ms Waldron's sister and father are on their way to the area, as dozens scour the beach and streams in the remote Daintree National Park.

Acting Inspector Ed Lukin, who is in charge of the search, said the women were waist-deep in water at 10.30pm on Sunday when Ms Waldron cried for help from her friend.

"She then disappeared under the water, there was a struggle and the witness (Ms Mitchell) felt what she suspected was the crocodile. She then fled the scene and raised the alarm with locals."

Mr Lukin said the search was focussed on a river system that contained a number of crocodiles, and would continue through the night.

"We have environmental officers who will be setting up to three crocodile traps in that river tonight depending on the tides.

"Obviously, in the next day or two, we will be looking at certain factors to make a determination on how long that search will continue but we are certainly continuing this as a search and rescue mission."

The State Emergency Service said Monday's air and sea search, which failed to find any sign of Ms Waldron, had been hampered by poor weather.

Mr Lukin, who had been involved in a previous search after a crocodile attack, said he was working with a skilled team.

"Their expertise is second to none. I'm very confident that we can bring this to a conclusion and we can bring closure for the family."

Calls for crocodile culls

Locals said Ms Waldron made a sad mistake in an area infested with crocodiles that were getting bigger because they were protected.

Dan Irby, who has run crocodile tours on the nearby Daintree River for 24 years, said he had seen crocodiles as long as 5m.

Warning signs were everywhere, he said.

"The crocs are nocturnal feeders and they're very shy, so in the daytime they stay hidden away from everybody and everything. In the cover of darkness, they come out and hunt."

The attack has prompted calls for crocodile culls or shooting safaris to control sizes and numbers.

Mr Irwin said the reptiles had been protected in North Queensland since 1974 and should be left alone.

"Are you saying should we kill everything that gets big? I disagree with that. They're top predators and in fact they keep an ecosystem healthy by getting rid of the weaker individuals of other things."

But Darwin crocodile hunter Mick Putman said crocodiles should be kept away from built-up areas.

"There's a lot of animals out there, they deserve to be in the environment but not near built-up areas. They definitely have got to go, they've got to have an exclusion zone implemented. It won't make it safe but the crocodiles will be a bit more wary about coming near people."

Ms Mitchell, who lives in Cairns, suffered a graze in the attack and was being treated for shock in hospital.

Her brother Robert said she was with close friends and the family was doing all it could for her.

Their thoughts were with Cindy's family, he said.