A British backpacker has died after being bitten by a sea snake off Australia’s northern coast.
The 23-year-old man was working aboard a fishing trawler off the Northern Territory, near the remote island of Groote Eylandt.
The young man was bitten by a sea snake while he was pulling up a net at about midday on Thursday.
It is the first ever recorded instance of a deadly sea snake bite in Australian waters.
A rescue helicopter with a medical team was sent from the city of Darwin, CareFlight spokesman David Wheeldon said. But the crew was informed during the flight of more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) that they were too late, Wheeldon said.
St. John Ambulance spokesman Craig Garraway said there was little that emergency services could do to help the man in such a remote location. Garraway estimated the victim died within two hours of being bitten.
The man was officially declared dead when the trawler reached the coastal town of Borroloola, police said.
Some 30 of the 70 known species of sea snake – marine reptiles found in tropical waters – are found in Australia.
Sea snakes are venomous but considered to be non-aggressive and rarely attack unless provoked.
The Marine Education Society of Australasia said most sea snake bites occur on trawlers, although only a small proportion are fatal to humans as it is rare for much venom to be injected.
A Northern Territory police spokeswoman confirmed the British Embassy had been notified. ‘Police will continue with their enquiries and a post mortem will be conducted,’ she said.
A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office: ‘We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in the Northern Territory and are in contact with the Australian authorities.’