Cindy Waldron, 46, had been swimming with her childhood friend Leeann Mitchell, 47, at Thornton Beach, in the Daintree Rainforest about 10pm Sunday when she was snatched.
Ms Waldron was taken moments later as her friend tried in vain to save her.
Police Senior Constable Russell Parker said the women, believed to be Australian tourists visiting the area, were in waist-deep water when one of them was grabbed, with her friend desperately trying to drag her to safety.
She had recently moved to Lithgow, in New South Wales, from Leura, a suburb in the Blue Mountains.
“I can’t see any other point on the coastline, either north of south of me as I’m standing on the beach”.
The State Emergency Service said Monday’s air and sea search, which failed to find any sign of Ms Waldron, had been hampered by poor weather.
Signs throughout the area warn people not to go near the water, with swimming at night considered particularly unsafe. There are also land-based and boat rescue teams in the area.
Mr Lukin said the search was focussed on a river system that contained a number of crocodiles, and would continue through the night.
The witness to the crocodile attack suffered only minor physical injuries, but she is being treated at Mossman Hospital for some cuts and shock.
The type of saltwater crocodile found along Cape Tribulation believed to have taken a 46 year old Lithgow woman.
“Certainly one has to be very careful around our waterways”.
“To make it safe to go back in the water, you’d really have to reduce the population back to where it was at pre-protection levels”. Be vigilant and be aware that crocodiles can get people very rapidly.
Federal MP Warren Entsch has said the attack must not spark a hysterical debate about crocodile management in his electorate.
“You can’t legislate against human stupidity”, Entsch said on Monday, noting that Thornton Beach lies next to a creek where tourism operators run crocodile-spotting tours. “This is a tragedy but it was avoidable”, he said.
The last fatal croc attack was in 2009 when 5-year-old Jeremy Doble was taken from the banks of the Daintree River near his home.
The friend desperately tried to drag the victim to the shore but she disappeared below the surface at 10.30pm.
Police tape at Thornton Beach.