Ndlovu and Fox were on an adventure tour on the expansive Zambezi River, among the longest in Africa that feeds into Victoria Falls, when a crocodile broadsided their inflated canoe like a scaly, razor-tipped torpedo.
She toppled into the river as the Nile crocodile held the canoe in its jaws, Adventure Zone tour company owner Brent Williamson told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
Williamson, who co-led the tour, rushed to rescue Ndlovu from the water. The crocodile bit his canoe, puncturing the pontoon and sending him into the water alongside a guide trainee.
Ndlovu possibly stepped on the crocodile, Williamson said, and it clamped down on her upper biceps.
Another trainee, identified only as Norman, gripped her life jacket and tried to pull her into his canoe, but the force of the crocodile also sent him falling into the river.
He never let go of Ndlovu, even as the other trainee pulled him out and set him back in the canoe.
It was then, Williamson said, the crocodile went for the kill.
“The croc kept holding on and then attempted the death roll,” he said, describing the violent, crashing tumble crocodiles use to drown and dismember their prey for easier swallowing.
The roll broke Ndlovu’s arm, tore away her biceps and stripped her limb of upper ligaments, Williamson said. The crocodile then released her.
Williamson climbed into another canoe and provided first aid on a riverbank, and a rescue helicopter arrived 45 minutes later.
She arrived by helicopter at an area hospital, was stabilized, and then, he said, went to the Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo by ambulance, nearly 300 miles from Victoria Falls. Doctors immediately decided to amputate her arm, he said.
She and Fox were married at the hospital’s chapel.
“In one week we went from shock and agony to a truly amazing experience,” Fox, of the United Kingdom, said. The couple had dated for 18 months, and he proposed in February.
Ndlovu and Fox appear accustomed to adventure on the Zambezi.
Photos on Facebook show the couple canoeing in March last year with a different company also based near Victoria Falls — a mile-long, towering 350-foot-high waterfall and magnet for thrill seekers exploring the powerful rapids there.
The couple did not immediately return requests for comment, though to be fair, they are busy.
Ndlovu was discharged from the hospital on Monday. Her residence was not identified in news reports, but Ndlovu indicated on her Facebook page that she has attended high school and college in Zimbabwe.
Fox told the AP they need to obtain a visa so she can settle in the United Kingdom.
“And then we will think of the honeymoon,” he said. Williamson said the attack was an extraordinary event and the first one in 12 years of operating on the upper Zambezi, though crocodile attacks are a common occurrence in the country.
Last month, a woman was killed by a crocodile outside the capital of Harare when she crossed a river to collect firewood. And in January, a tourist was killed in a national park by a crocodile.
The Nile crocodile, considered the second-largest reptile in the world, is commonly found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, earning its reputation as a “man-eater” species and blamed for a few hundred deaths and disappearances a year across Africa.
Williamson said another tour encountered the same crocodile on May 2. It tried to attack again, but no one was injured.
Ndlovu and Fox’s story is just beginning, but Friday may have been the end of the crocodile.
Park officials and one of Williamson’s guides led a hunt party and shot the crocodile in the lung, a method used to drown it. The crocodile slipped into the water and disappeared; its body has not been found.
But it will be easily identifiable beyond the gunshot. It’s notable for another reason, he said.
The crocodile, fiercely territorial, lorded the river as the biggest one around.