South African Kayaker Missing, Presumed Dead in Congo Crocodile Attack

A South African whitewater guide is missing and presumed dead after a crocodile attack in Democratic Republic of Congo, the International Rescue Committee said.

Hendrik Coetzee was leading two kayakers down the Lukuga River in eastern Congo on Dec. 7 when a crocodile pulled him under water, Ciaran Donnelly, IRC regional director, said today. IRC evacuated his two companions, Americans Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic, to a nearby town after the pair called a local office of the aid agency, Donnelly said.

“They are physically unhurt but quite devastated,” Donnelly said by phone from Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. The Americans are completing formalities with Congolese authorities before returning to their families, Donnelly said.

The three men were part of a team of kayakers documenting unexplored whitewaters in the region where Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda meet. The trip, which was sponsored by U.S. clothing manufacturer Eddie Bauer Inc., was also meant to bring attention to the “clean-water crisis” in central Africa, according to a statement on an Eddie Bauer-affiliated website documenting the trip.

Along the way, the team had visited aid and development projects managed by IRC, Donnelly said, and were planning to make a film of their journey.

"We are saddened by the tragic accident and express our deepest sympathies to Hendri’s family and friends" according to a statement on the website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at

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