There are few dangers more frightening then being gripped by a crocodile’s jaws as it attempts a “death roll.” That is the term applied to the famous rolling maneuver that is used by both crocodiles and some alligators to tear meat from their prey. It is a brutally effective method of disabling or killing its intended target. French fisherman Yoann Galeran, 29, experienced this firsthand for himself when a croc clamped its jaws around his head and started turning.

According to the Daily Mail, Galeran was not aware that the residents of Northern Australia avoided swimming at night. It was the time when dangerous predators, such as crocodiles, were most active. Galeran reportedly took a small boat off shore and dived into the water. He did not notice the saltwater crocodile nearby until he was snatched up by its jaws.

“I was just a short way into the water when it felt like a big stone or something coming on my head,” Galeran recalled. “I just thought for sure it was a croc and I started to think the only thing to do was to move my body as much as I could.”

The diver began punching the crocodile in the side and face, but the animal’s superior muscle was overpowering him. The crocodile pulled him deeper underwater and began spinning the diver around, intent on removing his head.

Galeran increased his efforts, focusing on hitting the skin just underneath the crocodile’s head. It was enough for the reptile to loosen its grip a fraction and allow Galeran to escape. He swam desperately back to the boat and was taken to a nearby hospital for his wounds. The encounter with the crocodile left four puncture marks on the top of Galeran’s head, several on his neck and scratches on his back from the fight. The fisherman attributes his survival partly to the relatively small size of the animal, which he estimated to be around 10 feet long.

“I didn’t think about dying,” Galeran recalled. “I thought only about fighting to stay alive.”

Residents of the area, including Galeran’s employer, say they have noticed the crocodile in the water close to shore for the past several weeks.

Image screenshot of video by Gakyoung Tube on YouTube

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