A Northampton holidaymaker has spoken of how he miraculously cheated death when a swordfish speared him through the THROAT as he went diving on a paradise island.
Alan Pope, 57, was sitting in his boat about to go snorkelling when the huge fish launched itself from the sea and hit him.
The force of the impact threw him to the floor of the boat and snapped off the tip of the giant bill-fish's harpoon - leaving six inches embedded in his neck.
Incredibly the spear - about the same size and sharpness of a kitchen knife - narrowly missed all the major arteries in Alan's neck.
He had to endure an agonising 30-minute boat ride back to shore with blood pouring from the wound.
The spear was so close to his jugular and carotid arteries that it took 36 hours, and three different hospitals, before doctors dared remove it.
The brush with death came as Alan and wife Sharon, 55, were about half an hour out to sea off the tiny Indonesian island of Lembongan nr Bali.
He said: "I was just a bit mystified through the whole thing. It didn't really hurt much, it didn't feel too bad. But it did start to dawn on me that I might bleed out and die.
"The beak missed my jugular by just a millimetre - the doctors said afterwards that if the surgery had gone wrong I could have bled out in three minutes."
Sharon said: "It was a really scary experience - but he was such a Trojan. He never complained.
"He's a very lucky man."
The couple, from Northampton, had gone to Bali in October 2016 as part of their post-retirement bid to travel the world.
They were going snorkelling off the island of Lembongan, which had been recommended as one of the best places to spot manta rays.
Alan, a grandfather-of-three, said: "We hired a little wooden private charter boat to take us out - it was just myself, my wife and the man in charge of the boat.
"The water was quite choppy, but we got about half an hour out to sea when I felt this whack on the side of my head - it knocked me off my feet.
"I wasn't sure what had happened, and then I felt this tickling in the back of my throat."
Sharon said: "I thought he'd been shot.
"I heard this thud and I looked around and saw him on the floor of the boat with a whole in his neck, like a bullet circle.
"Then he started coughing and spitting up blood, and that's when I knew something was really wrong."
Despite the six-inch swordfish beak sticking out the side of his neck, Alan says that neither he, his wife, or the boatman caught any sign of the fish itself.
The couple then had to endure a long 30-minute boat ride back to Lembongan island where the boatman ran off, pointing them towards the nearest clinic and leaving Sharon to carry Alan there herself.
Medical staff at the tiny village hall 'hospital' were able to remove the top half of the beak from the side of his neck but the rest was too deeply embedded for them to safely reach it.
Alan said: "Taking out that half of the beak was actually the worst thing they could have done - they should have left it in.
"Someone then came and told us we had to go back to Bali to a proper hospital.
"So we rushed back to our hotel, threw everything in a bag and then had to get a boat back to the mainland - all while I had a swordfish beak stuck in my throat."
Even after the couple arrived back in Bali, they were made to visit two different hospitals - because doctors were not sure how to safely remove the six-inch beak.
Alan said that despite an x-ray at the first hospital confirming the beak lodged in his throat he was then sent 40 minutes away to a different hospital for a CT scan.
"The doctors were concerned about safely getting the beak out," he said.
"It was so close to my jugular - it was right in the middle of a fork between two main arteries - so they weren't sure how to do it safely."
He added: "We also had a lot of problems getting in touch with our insurance company to prove we had insurance, because of the time difference."
It wasn't until 36 hours after the incident, and following a three-and-a-half hour operation, that the beak was safely removed from Alan's throat.
Just over a week later Alan was well enough to board a plane to Australia with Sharon to continue their travels.
He added: "It made me more determined to carry on.
"The doctors told me I was either the luckiest man alive, or the unluckiest.
"But after a few days recovering in hospital, I felt fine."
He brought the swordfish beak home with him as a memento of his 'freak accident' - and has also since had a tattoo of a swordfish on his arm.
Sharon has praised the work of the doctors in saving her husband.
She said: "They were fantastic. A week later you never would have known it had even happened.
"Alan is a very lucky man."