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Crowds Honor Soccer Player Killed by Crocodile in Costa Rica

Crowds of people accompanied the coffin of soccer player Jesus Lopez Ortiz in Guanacaste, northeastern Costa Rica, last week after his death following a crocodile attack.

“Today we said goodbye to you ‘Chucho’; today, around a thousand people accompany you representing all your friends, family, and the entire country that was with you,” Deportivo Rio Cañas, the soccer team for which he played, said in a post on Facebook.

Lopez Ortiz was killed shortly after jumping into the crocodile-filled Cañas River in Guanacaste on July 29. He had jumped off a bridge into the water to cool off, authorities said.

“‘Help me, help me, my friend is not coming out of the water,’” Marcos Chavarria, a local resident, recalled hearing one of the victim’s friends saying as he called out desperately for help.

Chavarria ran to help, but at first only saw a cap and bubbles in the water, he said, adding “there was nothing else to do.”

Minutes later, he saw a body was clenched in the crocodile’s jaws, he said.

The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) said that the crocodile was later shot so that authorities could recover the body of the young man.

His team urged onlookers not to post videos of the incident.

“Please, let’s respect the grieving family, do not post videos about what happened and if you already posted them, delete them, there are children, mother, father, brothers, who deserve respect,” the Rio Cañas soccer team said.

At the funeral, Lopez Ortiz’s mother gave thanks for all the support and the emotional and economic help she has received since her son’s passing.

“There are no words, I know God will bless them… if it hadn’t been for them, I don’t know what I would have done,” Giselle Ortiz Cubillo said.

Ortiz Cubillo also called on authorities to ensure that there isn’t an overpopulation of crocodiles in the river, “for young people, for children, even for adults.”

A SINAC official told the press, however, that investigations showed no crocodile overpopulation, and that the animals could potentially offer an economic benefit to communities in the area.

“We are trying for the population to understand that it is an opportunity that we have that can be used in ecotourism and can be an opportunity to generate employment for the communities and not see it only as a threat,” SINAC official Mauricio Mendez said.

According to Mendez, there are already communities promoting boat tours to watch crocodiles in several rivers in the area. More cautionary signs will be placed to warn people of the crocodiles’ presence and the importance of not feeding them.

“They are animals that are normally elusive to humans; they do not look for humans, if you maintain a prudent attitude, do not feed them, do not interact with them, they will not interact with you either,” Mendez also said.

In recent years, SINAC has asked people to avoid interaction with crocodiles and implement preventive measures. Last year, a child in another province was fatally attacked by a wild crocodile.

Source: CNN