Sixteen children at a church camp in Ohio just got a lesson they’ll never forget.
Church organizers took the kids to a creek in West Alexandria on Wednesday for a lesson called “dangers in the shadows” to teach them about listening to safety tips from their elders.
They had no idea that one of those shadows would turn out to be a very large, very out-of-place crocodile swimming in the same creek.
Several adults who were watching the kids spotted the croc as a dark shape in the waters of Bantas Fork Creek on Wednesday. The kids were swimming in the creek while some adults were in the water with them and others were watching from a bridge above.
Rick Turnbull, who helps with the class, told CNN that another adult “saw something in the water, a shadowy object moving.”
“He yelled down to the person on that side of the bridge and shouted: ‘Get the kids out of the water,'” Turnbull said.
He says the crocodile was approximately six metres away by the time they got all of the kids out of the water. The croc continued on its way and swam right under the bridge where they were all standing.
“He wasn’t afraid of us,” Turnbull said. “He swam under it, popped his head up and looked at us.”
Rich Denius, who was also monitoring the children that day, captured several photos and video of the crocodile and posted them on social media. His post has been viewed more than 80,000 times.
“Jesus protected these children,” he wrote in the video.
The church group reported the croc to state wildlife officials, who showed up and shot the animal later that day.
The animal was killed “due to a public safety concern,” wildlife officer Brad Turner told local news station WHIO-TV.
The church group was running the camp with the Hilltop Equestrian Center, which put out a statement on the crocodile’s demise on Facebook on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, it was not up to us to decide what happened with the crocodile,” the Hilltop Equestrian Center wrote. “We’re just thankful all of our children were safe.”
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State veterinarian Tony Forshey says the crocodile was likely a pet that someone dumped in the river after it grew too large, as crocodiles do not normally live in Ohio.
“This was the first sighting so he probably hadn’t been in there very long,” Forshey told CNN.
The crocodile was over two metres long and weighed more than 75 kilograms, Forshey said.
“We don’t expect a wild animal down here, especially a crocodile. It doesn’t belong here,” Turnbull told WHIO-TV in a separate interview.
“You’re going out to enjoy an evening, and all of a sudden, terror strikes.”