As you may have guessed by now, Peace Corps Volunteer Olson was eaten by a crocodile.Here's how it happened. It was during Spring Break. Most of the volunteers in Ethiopia wereteachers. Ethiopia is mostly Christian, so there's a one-week school vacation at Easter. A goodtime for the volunteers to hit the road and see the sights. One cool town to visit is Gambella. Sofar, so good. Here's a letter from an eye witness. Let's let her tell the rest of the story:April 24, 1966Dear Mother:
I was very surprised to learn that the PC called you about the accident. I had no idea theywould do that. In my last letter I didn’t give you many details because I didn’t want to unduly alarmyou, but it seems the PC has already done that so I’ll tell you just how it happened. But, before Ido, and I don’t want to preach, I just want to say don’t worry about me. Also, I keep thinking aboutBill’s parents. I know this must be unbearable for them, but he loved the Peace Corps and he wasdoing something he felt was good and worthwhile. His death was tragic but he didn’t die withoutaccomplishing something.
As I told you before, we took the bus from Addis to Jimma on the Monday after Easter. OnWednesday we caught the plane from Jimma to Gambella. There were six of us on the plane, allPeace Corps, and we naturally became a group. I was glad to have travelling companions.
At the airstrip in Gambella, we met 9 other Peace Corps, all on vacation. They told us it was agreat place. Also at the airstrip we met a Dutch Catholic priest, Father Jack. His mission is near Dembidolla, a six-hour walk and he was staying in Gambella for a vacation. He told us that someof us could stay at the house he was staying in and the rest could stay at the hotel.
We walked into town, which was about a kilometer from the airstrip. We met Jane, a PCVfrom Gore. It was terribly hot and she said she had just been in the river and it felt great. We leftour stuff at Father Jack’s and went to the hotel. We had a cold beer (the only available beverage)and we bought food so the six of us had a picnic lunch. Then we decided to go swimming. I hadbrought shorts, so I went to change. The guys went to the market to buy shorts, they changed,and we all went swimming in the Baro River.
The water was cool and nice. The river was pretty wide but so shallow that you could walkalmost all the way across. We waded out to a huge rock about two thirds of the way across. Wecould stand up, the water was about chest high. We splashed around, floated on our backs toanother rock about 200 yards downstream. The current was so swift that it required no effort andwe could touch bottom whenever we felt like it. The bottom was very rocky, no mud, but the water was not clear and you could only see about six inches down. I got tired and waded out and sat onthe shore for a while.
I watched the guys swim and splash in the water. About twenty yards past the rock was along sandbar and Jim swam over there and walked around on it. The sandbar was about twentyyards from the far shore. After awhile, Ralph, Jim and Bill floated down to the other rock. I wasready to go back in so I swam out to the first rock and sat and talked with Lyle for a while. ThenJim, and two minutes later, Bill, swam out to the rock Lyle and I were sitting on. The four of ustalked about swimming across to the sandbar and then floating down to the second rock. Wedecided to do it and we planned to go one by one.
In order to get to the sandbar you had to get in the water, swim as hard as you could towardsit and the current would bring you down to the end of it where you stood up and walked up on thebar. Bill went first. He got in the water, we watched him swim for the sandbar, the current carried