Brit sisters savaged by crocodile in Mexico lake tell of terrifying moment one was bitten and dragged underwater
THE British backpacker savaged by a crocodile in Mexico has told how she stared into its eyes before being dragged underwater in a death roll, saying: “I thought I was going to die.”
Melissa Laurie, 28, “knew she was in trouble” when she first locked eyes with the 10ft croc above the water — and desperately tried to swim away with twin sister Georgia.
Speaking about the dramatic June 6 attack in a world exclusive interview, Melissa said she believed that the ferocious creature had “ripped off” her arm as it dragged her beneath the water.
The upbeat twins are astonishingly resolute as they recount their terrifying ordeal with the 80kg beast.
Indeed, it is their mum Sue, 62, that breaks down in tears as she listens to the horrors of what should have been a care-free trip for her daughters.
As she sobs, Georgia stands up to hug her while Melissa takes the hand of their father Sean, 63.
Melissa — who has an eight-inch scar on her abdomen from surgery following the attack — told The Sun on Sunday: “I remember screaming underwater.
“And in that moment my mind was racing because I thought I was going to die. I thought I was never going to see my family or my sister again.”
Zookeeper Melissa and certified divemaster Georgia, from Sandhurst, Berks, had been swimming in the popular Manialtepec Lagoon with their friend Ani and his brother Gopal.
The group of backpackers had been assured the lagoon was safe by their unlicensed tour guide Recep Aydin.
This was despite the site being a known nesting place for crocs and their young during the rainy season.
But shortly after entering the water at 5.30pm, Melissa watched in horror as the croc’s head emerged above the water just 15 metres away.
She said: “I screamed: ‘S**t! It’s a crocodile, we need to turn back immediately.’ I saw its eyes and the shape of its head just above the water and in that moment, I thought, ‘We are in trouble’.
“My heart rate just shot up. It was very hectic at the point.”
The panicked group turned around and tried to swim towards the mangroves.
Melissa — the weakest swimmer of the four — added: “It was just swim, swim, swim.”
But just as she reached a mangrove, the crocodile grabbed her left hand and pulled her under. She revealed: “I was so close to reaching safety.
“Ani had managed to climb on to the mangroves and he bent down and held his hand out to grab mine.
"As I went to grab his hand, my left hand got bitten and I just got dragged underwater.”
Melissa was taken into a death roll — a violent twisting which the reptiles use to wrench limbs out of sockets and kill prey.
She said: “I honestly thought I was about to die. I just remember being shaken around a lot.
“I didn’t feel anything, no pain, but I thought my arm had been ripped off where it had bitten.
“My mind was racing with thoughts, that I’m not going to see my family or Georgia and that she’s going to have to deal with repatriating my body back to the UK.
"I don’t remember ever reaching the surface again so I must have passed out.”
Georgia, who was ahead of Melissa in the water, turned around at the moment Melissa was pulled under.
She told The Sun On Sunday: “I kept swimming and that for me was hard.
"But you think about fight or flight instinct and my instinct was to try to get to safety.
“I had managed to get to the bank on the side but I was clambering trying to find somewhere a little bit more solid to stand.”
Turning to Melissa while chatting to The Sun On Sunday, Georgia said: “I kept saying, ‘Where’s Mel? Where’s my sister, where’s my sister? I think I was crying in hysterics at this point screaming for you.”
Georgia heard one of the boys say: “Oh my God, that’s a body.”
Her sister was floating face down in the water, not far from the bank.
Georgia raced back into the water and gently pulled Melissa’s body towards her and lifted her up.
She said: “I was trying to wake her up, shaking her saying, ‘Mel stay with me stay with me’. Her eyes were grey.”
Speaking to Melissa again, she said: “You were blue.”
Regaining consciousness, Melissa began “flailing” her arms around, unsure if she was still being attacked by the crocodile.
Georgia said: “You were screaming an awful lot and I was saying, ‘Calm down, calm down’.
“I was hysterical thinking the crocodile was going to come back. I was worried you were going to drown.”
The crocodile did come back — trying to drag Melissa away three times. Georgia bravely fended it off by beating it with her fists.
Speaking to Melissa, she said: “I started bashing it and bashing it with both fists — just thumping it. It felt rock hard, like punching a wall.
“It grabbed you then tried to deathroll you, and that’s when it bit me. It was really going for it — it would grab you and then bite you again.
“When I realised you weren’t responding, I was thinking, ‘I want to die. I don’t want to live any more’.”
The animal eventually let go and Georgia managed to haul Melissa — who was drifting in and out of consciousness — on to a boat whose crew had heard their screams and come to their rescue.
Georgia said: “I was thinking of giving mouth to mouth, bringing back my rescue training.”
Back on the boat, Melissa regained consciousness. She said: “I remember screaming, ‘hug me, hug me’, because I knew I was dying and I wanted to be in her arms.
I was just slouched over hugging her. I remember telling Georgia, ‘I’m dying, I’m dying’.
"I couldn’t breathe, I was saying, ‘I’m drowning’. I couldn’t get a breath and when I did my chest was rattling.
“I was biting as hard as I could on to Georgia’s shoulder because I wanted to feel physically close to her — but also when you pinch yourself to know something is real.”
To soothe her, Georgia sang Bob Marley’s hit Three Little Birds — which includes the line “don’t worry about a thing” — and Ben E King classic Stand By Me.
Melissa had suffered six puncture wounds across her abdomen, stomach, intestines and bowel.
She was taken off the boat to an ambulance, and she and Georgia — who had lacerations up her wrist — made it to the hospital in the tourist port town of Puerto Escondido.
Melissa said: “I remember the relief when the ambulance doors opened and I could see a team of medical staff waiting for me.
“Up to that point I’d fought hard to live and survive and hold on. I knew in that moment I didn’t want to die. I hadn’t finished living.”
Melissa spent an hour in the triage room, screaming in pain, before surgery at 11pm that night.
Doctors told Georgia her sister had an open fracture in her arm, internal injuries to the abdomen, and water in her lungs, which could lead to infection and pneumonia.
Melissa, who also developed sepsis from her wounds, was put in a medically induced coma.
Georgia was “robotic” relaying the news to their parents. She explained: “I was so numb and in shock.”
Melissa woke up from her induced coma four days later in a state of confusion.
She has lost a stone in weight and is now out of hospital and recovering in Puerto Escondido, with Georgia by her side.
She said the “irony was not lost on me” that she, the animal-loving zookeeper, had been attacked by a crocodile.
But neither twin blames the crocodile for the attack.
And both are calling for greater protection for the crocs in Mexico, after local authorities proposed a cull following the drama.
Melissa said: “Just because a traumatic event has happened it doesn’t leave me wishing that the crocodiles pay the price. It’s not their fault.”
Marathon runner Melissa insists any rumours of drugs or alcohol being involved in the incident are simply not true.
And the horrifying encounter three months into their world tour has given her a new perspective on life.
She said: “I can’t walk as fast as I used to and my energy levels are low. But what my body’s done is just amazing in its recovery. I’m proud of my scars.”
The unlicensed tour guide who led them into trouble — 35-year-old German citizen Aydin — fled Puerto Escondido. However, the twins harbour no anger for him.
Georgia said: “I’m going to focus on the fact she’s still alive rather than holding this resentment and anger. He’s probably struggling with the blood that could have been on his hands.”
Remarkably, Melissa has no regrets about the ordeal.
She said: “I wouldn’t change the attack because it’s given me a new outlook on life.
“Everything happened perfectly from when it went badly wrong. Georgia found my body in shallower water so she could drag me out.
“If the roles had been switched . . . maybe someone could have lost their life?
"Georgia is much more feisty than me. She has a much stronger fight mechanism than I. Georgia saved my life.”
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