Some people are calling it the stupidest decision ever made.
Others are slightly more forgiving.
Regardless of how you’d characterize Lee De Paauw’s decision this weekend to leap into a crocodile-infested river to impress a young woman he was smitten with, one thing can’t be denied — it kinda worked.
It also nearly cost the 18-year-old Australian — now the living embodiment of every teenage male stereotype ever created — his life.
“Do you understand that most of the country thinks that you’re one of the stupidest people around right now?’ ” Nine Network Australia reporter Zara James asked De Paauw as he sat in his hospital bed.
“I’m not, really,” De Paauw replied. “I’m just — I don’t know — trying to prove a point.”
The point-proving began, as it so often does, with alcohol — “10 cups of goon,” to be exact. “Goon” is box wine, according to BuzzFeed, which called the wine “Australia’s most versatile drink.”
Under the influence of Australian box wine, De Paauw told Nine Network, he started telling the group of people he was drinking with that backpackers were more likely to get eaten by a crocodile than Australians. The playful dig was aimed at Sophie Paterson, a 24-year-old British backpacker De Paauw had just met and was trying to impress.
“So we decided to go down to the river and test out the theory,” De Paauw told Nine Network.
How serious De Paauw was about testing out his theory in Queensland’s Johnstone River is unclear. At about 2:20 a.m. Saturday, while the group was near the water, someone dared the teenager to jump in, according to the Cairns Post.
— Zara James (@Zara_James9) March 19, 2017
De Paauw told the station that the plan was to jump in and swim for a few seconds. But that’s all the time it took for a crocodile to notice the teenager and attack.
The teen told Nova FM’s “Fitzy and Wippa” that he was swimming to a jetty “when the croc grabbed my arm, dragged me back out and started rolling.”
“It took me out about six meters from the wharf,” he continued. “I hit it once on the nose, it loosened a bit.
“I got another hit in and it was right on its eye,” he added. “I was lucky because it just dropped me.”
De Paauw told Nine Network that when the attack began he was certain he was going to die. By the time he made it to the shore, he said, his arm was floppy and he was in agonizing pain and covered in blood. Friends pulled him from the water and called paramedics, who transported the teenager to the hospital.
“It all happened very fast, pretty much as soon as he jumped in, there was splashing and screaming,” Paterson told the Courier Mail. “There was blood everywhere and he just wouldn’t stop screaming.
“I thought he had lost his arm because of how bad it looked,” she added.
Fisherman told Nine News that the crocodile is well known by local residents and that they estimate that the animal is about 12 feet long. Signs along the river warn about the danger of entering the water. Saltwater crocodiles have killed eight people in Queensland since 1985, according to News Corp.
Doctors initially thought De Paauw might lose his left arm, but surgeons were able to save it. The arm suffered severe injuries, including two broken bones that protruded from the skin and gouge marks on the top and the bottom from where the animal’s teeth sank in.
Local authorities have set up a cage in the water to trap the animal.
“I don’t want that crocodile harmed and I want it released back into the wild and I want it to have a happy life,” De Paauw told Nine News.
Paterson agreed to see a movie with De Paauw, who told the station he doesn’t regret his death-defying decision.
“Haters gonna hate,” he said.