The man is in stable condition after he was attacked by a large crocodile at a popular tourist beach

By Stephanie Petit
Updated July 24, 2016 10:20 AM
Tome Brakefield/Getty Images

An American man is in critical but stable condition after a “vicious” attack by a large crocodile on a Costa Rican beach on Friday, but the situation could have been more tragic if it wasn’t for the man’s friend fighting the reptile off with his bare hands.

According to certified lifeguard Pat McNulty, the victim and his friend were crossing a river in Tamarindo, a popular destination for surfers and tourists, when the attack occurred.

“It was a vicious attack, and he was bitten several times in the leg as well as the head,” McNulty told the Associated Press.

“They were able to get him free, swim him to safety and then trained lifeguards responded … and we administered first aid and called an ambulance,” he continued.

The victim, who McNulty said lives in the area, remained conscious after the attack and was taken to the provincial capital for emergency medical attention for lower leg trauma.

Diana Zimmerman, who posts on Facebook under the name Surf with Leo, captured the man emerging from the water after the attack.

In addition to the work of the lifeguards, McNulty credits the victim’s friend for fighting off the crocodile and likely preventing a bigger tragedy.

“His friend saved his life … and then we the lifeguards helped keep him alive,” said McNulty. “It was a very traumatic scene, and all individuals attending him did a tremendous job.”

The victim’s family was traveling to Costa Rica to be with him as he recovered.

McNulty said there was a “minor incident” several months ago in which a smaller crocodile bit someone.

“We live in a country where there’s large crocodiles, and people take for granted that when you go into a river that you’re safe,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is that you need to be aware of your environment. … We’re in their world.”