A Zimbabwean fisherman is on the road to recovery after surviving an attack by four crocodiles, thanks to some quick thinking on his part and the help of friends on shore. Alexander Chimedza of Kariba, a resort town in northern Zimbabwe near Lake Kariba, was gathering red worms in a weedy area near some ponds when he was ambushed by the reptiles. He was planning to use the bait for catching bream to feed his family.

“The crocodiles must have been waiting for me,” Chimedza told the Zimbabwe Herald, “because the moment I just touched the weeds, I was attacked. First, one of them tried to grab my left hand, but I instinctively dodged, but another one grabbed my right hand.”

The reptile dragged him into the water and began a “death roll,” the violent twisting motion that crocs used to subdue and devour prey. “At that point I realized that my hand would break if I resisted,” Chimedza said. “So I allowed my hand to go in the direction it turned.”

Chimedza was eventually able to stand, but another croc grabbed him by the thigh and yet another chomped down on his heel. Meanwhile friends on shore were pelting the predators with rocks. Desperate to defend himself, Chimedza reportedly jammed his hand into one crocodile’s mouth as it grabbed at his right arm.

“As I thrust my hand into the crocodile’s mouth, some of the stones that were being thrown from outside must have hit the crocodile,” Chimedza said. “That, coupled with the large volumes of water that flowed into its mouth, must have led to its death because it let me go and I saw it seeming lifeless afterward.”

His friends used a stick to pull him from the water, then flagged down a passing ambulance. Chimedza was taken to the local hospital before transferring to another facility in neighboring Zambia. He spent 40 days in the hospital and endured multiple surgeries to repair broken bones, perform skin grafts and reattach a torn Achilles tendon. He was later readmitted after doctors found a crocodile tooth embedded in his leg, causing infection. He faces a long recovery and additional surgeries to remove temporary metal plates implanted to aid healing, and he is not expected to regain the use of his right arm.

Reports did not name the kind of croc that attacked Chimedza, but Zimbabwe is within the native range of the Nile crocodile, the species identified by CrocBite (a database that tracks crocodile attacks worldwide) as the most likely to attack humans. “It is often said that it kills more people in Africa than any other animal,” CrocBite says of the deadly Crocodylus niloticus, “a statistic which appears to be true.” Crocodiles are estimated to cause 1,000 global fatalities annually, though many fatal attacks go unreported and, sometimes, unwitnessed.