(USA TODAY) – Tragedy struck a mass baptism in an African lake when a crocodile leaped from the water and killed the presiding pastor.
The Rev. Docho Eshete was conducting the ceremony for about 80 people on a morning earlier this month at Lake Abaya in southern Ethiopia, the BBC reported. Eshete died after being bitten on his legs, back and hands.
“He baptized the first person and he passed on to another one. All of a sudden, a crocodile jumped out of the lake and grabbed the pastor,” local resident Ketema Kairo told the network.
After the crocodile struck, congregants and local fishermen scrambled to save the Protestant clergyman, policeman Eiwnetu Kanko said, using fishing nets to prevent the crocodile from taking Eshete further into the lake.
“They only managed to get his dead body,” added Kanko, an officer from Arba Minch, 300 miles south of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “They were unable to save him.”
According to England’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Protestant baptism services in Africa are frequently conducted by rivers or lakes, with the participants being fully or partially immersed in the water in the manner of Jesus Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist.
Crocodile attacks are common in Africa, the paper reported, with many of the victims being women washing clothes.
In addition, according to the Telegraph, Lake Abaya crocodiles have a reputation of aggression towards humans because of a dearth of fish caused by overfishing.
The incident came a month after a crocodile in Zimbabwe ripped off the arm of local resident Zanele Ndlovu, 25, five days before she was due to marriy her British fiancé, Jamie Fox, 27. The couple went ahead with the wedding as scheduled.