A 72-year-old man in northern Australia fought off crocodiles for three hours by throwing spanners and spark plugs in a "desperate" bid to save his drowning friend after one of the creatures capsized their boat.

The men, both from the Australian state of Victoria, were catching crabs near Darwin in the Northern Territory when they were attacked by a crocodile and thrown into the water.

Several crocodiles then apparently joined the attack.

The survivor said a crocodile had deliberately capsized the boat, leaving his friend, apparently in his 50s, trapped under the vessel.


The friend drowned as the 72-year-old threw objects to fend off the crocodiles.

"They tried to climb back on the boat and it further capsized and that's when his mate was caught underneath it and drowned," said Ian Badham, from CareFlight, a rescue service.

"As he was trying to crawl to shore near the mangroves he had to use a spanner and sparkplugs, throwing things and banging at other crocs trying to get to him ... It was just a sheer act of desperation and survival."

The survivor was rescued by a group of fellow crabbers who helped to retrieve the dead man's body.

Authorities said the survivor was flown to Darwin and being treated in hospital.

"The man has been left suffering from severe shock and dehydration and exposure," Badham said.

The Northern Territory has about 100,000 crocodiles and has recorded numerous fatal attacks in recent years.

Authorities say there is increasing evidence that crocodiles have been attacking boats.