Actor Paul Nicholls has told of having to fend off bloodthirsty creatures while trapped at the bottom of a waterfall in Thailand for three days.
The former EastEnders star fell about 20ft (6m) in Koh Samui earlier this year, ripping off his knee cap and ending up in a pool of water fighting for his life.
Nicholls said he went over the edge of the waterfall after being set upon by a pack of about 15 wild dogs, and he thought that if he made it to the water, they would not be able to get to him.
He told ITV’s Loose Women: “I hit the water, and I remember thinking ‘Thank God the water’s deep enough’ because I didn’t know … and then my leg hit and I was like ‘Oh my God, that’s painful!’
“And when I came up, I saw where my kneecap should be there was just a hole. And I was holding onto it and screaming and screaming, and then I let go and a bit of blood squirted into the water and – this is the worst bit – that’s when these things came out of the water and swimming.
“I thought ‘Those are leeches, those are very big leeches’, and as soon as the blood hit the water, these crabs came out, and I managed to get rid of them quite quickly, but the leeches just seemed to start coming out of holes in the wall, they were coming out of the mud, they were just coming out of everywhere.”
Ackley Bridge star Nicholls said he was “batting away” the leeches while screaming for help, before taking a risk and dropping to another pool of water about 15ft (4.6m) below where he had originally landed.
He said: “I know I wasn’t hallucinating, this was real.
“I spent all day trying to keep my leg from getting more blood in the water, anything that came near me I was just batting away, and screaming for help.”
Nicholls, 38, said he thought the area where he was trapped was a tourist spot after he saw a stall selling soft drinks nearby, but that he was left alone.
He said: “Basically, I knew that I couldn’t stay in that first pool that I landed in because, if it got dark, I couldn’t see these things coming towards me, and I thought if one of them gets on … I don’t know.”
He said he could not remember much after falling the second time.
He said: “I remember bits and bobs and I knew I was hallucinating at one point, because I was seeing people down there, and they were opening their front doors and saying ‘Shut up, be quiet!'”
Nicholls described the moment he saw his knee had been injured, and compared it to when a boxer’s gum shield “flies out of his mouth”.
“Something flew out of my knee – it was part of my kneecap,” he said.
He said he was rescued when a passer-by who had spotted his abandoned scooter contacted the woman he was renting it from, who then alerted the authorities.
Nicholls rose to prominence playing Joe Wicks in BBC soap EastEnders from 1996 to 1997.