Stranded divers 'fought off Komodo dragon'

Rosamond Hutt,Pa
Monday 09 June 2008 08:58 BST

A British couple rescued from a remote Indonesian island where they were marooned with three other divers after being swept away by strong currents described surviving 12 hours in shark-infested waters and having to fend off a giant, carnivorous lizard.

Britons Charlotte Allin, her boyfriend James Manning and group leader Kathleen Mitchinson, along with two other divers Frenchman Laurent Pinel and Swede Helena Nevalainen, were found on Saturday on deserted Rinca island.

The group was caught in a rip current while diving in Komodo National Park off Bali.

After 12 hours adrift they managed to scramble ashore on Rinca, where they spent two nights battling dehydration and came face-to-face with a Komodo dragon.

Miss Allin, 25, told The Sun: "We heard a scream and saw this Komodo just inches from Helena.

"These things can kill buffalo and deer with one bite. We rushed up and Kath beat it with sticks and we hurled seawater over it."

Komodo dragons, which can grow up to 10ft long and weigh as much as 365 pounds, are only found in the wild on Rinca and Komodo island. There are believed to be 4,000 left in the world.

Earlier, Mr Manning, an ex-Royal Marine and Iraq veteran, had left the group to find help.

He told The Sun how he scaled a 600ft cliff and almost disturbed a beehive at the summit.

"I had to be careful where I put my hands. I did not know what was in the crevices," he said.

"The only way to get round the island was by both swimming and climbing.

"I still had diving boots, but apart from that I was just about naked except for my shorts. The waves would bounce me against the rocks."

Rescuers in motor boats spotted the group waving frantically on the shore and also picked up Mr Manning from another part of the island.

Miss Allin said: "I did not think we would survive one more night. I thought Jim was dead. Then about midday we saw a boat. Kath and I dropped on our knees and burst into tears."

The five were taken to nearby Flores island for medical treatment.

The dive was organised by Ms Mitchinson and her husband Ernest Leandowski who run Reefseekers diving centre based in Labuan Bajo, a small fishing town on Flores.

During an emotional phone call to her parents at their home near Bideford in Devon, Miss Allin, 25, said she was tired and dehydrated but fine except for a few cuts and bruises on her feet.

Her mother Sue said: "I didn't believe that she was all right until I heard her voice."

Her father Dave said his daughter and Mr Manning, 30, were diving instructors who had been teaching scuba diving in Phi Phi, Thailand, for about two years.

"I think the plan is that they are going to come home as soon as they can.

"They have done a couple of years in Thailand and this was a holiday prior to coming home really."

He said the family - including Miss Allin's sister Sarah-Jane, 26, and brother Richard, 23 - were thrilled with the "happy ending".

Mr Manning's brother Olly, 27, from Cullompton, Devon, said the family had spent a long night waiting for news and were "immensely relieved" that he was safe and well.

The area where the diving trip took place is famous for its rich marine diversity, including sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. But it is also known for its treacherous and unpredictable seas.

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