Colombo, Sri Lanka (BBN) – A British journalist has died in Sri Lanka after being attacked by a crocodile, his employer has confirmed.
Paul McClean, 24, from Thames Ditton in Surrey, was dragged into a river near Arugam Bay, witnesses have said, according to BBC.
Fawas Lafeer, who owns the nearby Safa Surf School, said the Financial Times (FT) journalist had been washing his hands in the river when he was attacked.
Local police have confirmed that Mr. McClean’s body was found in a lagoon by a Sri Lankan Navy search team.
The FT editor Lionel Barber said on Twitter: “Paul McClean was an outstanding young journalist with a great future at the FT. We will miss him sorely.”
‘Warm, funny person’
The paper added that the Oxford graduate’s body was identified by friends he was holidaying with in Sri Lanka, and the final cause of death had yet to be established.
James Lamont, FT managing editor, said he was a “talented, energetic and dedicated” journalist with an eye for hidden stories.
“We are liaising closely with his family and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and offering the FT’s assistance,” he said.
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones. We are in touch with them, doing all we can to help during this difficult time.”
Mr McClean, who described himself as a “long suffering Evertonian”, was a member of the fastFT team in London – a 24-hour rolling business news website.
Katie Martin, head of fastFT, described Mr McClean as “a warm, funny person and a talented young journalist with a curious mind… a joy to be around, truly, with an impish sense of humour”.
Arugam Bay is a popular surf spot in south eastern Sri Lanka – six kilometres north of Mr Lafeer’s surf school at Elephant Rock.
Elephant Rock is an isolated beach surrounded by roaming elephants and other wildlife, according to National Geographic.
Mr Lafeer told BBC Radio 5 live surfers at his school had just finished a lesson when they were called by fishermen on the river to help.
“Fishermen saw him attacked by the crocodile and they screamed to the surfers to come and help,” he said.
“By the time they went to the spot where the croc attacked, they couldn’t save him because already the crocodile had pulled him inside the water so they couldn’t see what was going on.”
He said the Sri Lankan Navy retrieved a body from the river at about 20:45 local time.
“This is the first time somebody has died in this river… we have had three attacks on the fishermen. [But] they did not die, they were injured,” Mr Lafeer added.
Police said a judge will conduct an inquiry about the incident before the body is sent for a post-mortem examination.