Elderly American tourist killed in elephant attack while on safari in Zambia

The tourist died after the attack at Kafue National Park.

April 4, 2024, 9:43 AM

An elderly American tourist was killed after an "aggressive" bull elephant attacked a vehicle during a game drive in Zambia, the safari operator said.

The incident took place Saturday morning at Kafue National Park, a Lusaka Police spokesperson confirmed to ABC News. Gail Mattson, 79, was confirmed by the family as the victim.

"An aggressive bull elephant charged the vehicle carrying six guests and a guide who were on a game drive from Lufupa Camp," Wilderness, the company operating the safari, said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

Gail Mattson, 79, is seen on a safari in Zambia the day she was killed by a bull elephant.
Obtained by ABC News

Four other people received treatment for minor injuries after the incident, the company said.

"The six guests were on the game drive when the vehicle was unexpectedly charged by the bull elephant," Keith Vincent, Wilderness' chief executive officer, said in the statement, adding, that the safari guide's vehicle was "blocked" by the terrain at the time of the attack.

"Our guides are all extremely well trained and experienced, but sadly in this instance the terrain and vegetation was such that the guide's route became blocked and he could not move the vehicle out of harm's way quickly enough," Vincent said.

Following the attack, Kafue National Park management was immediately called to assist and a helicopter was dispatched to the scene, according to Vincent. Local police, Zambia's Department of National Parks & Wildlife and other authorities are involved in the investigation, he said.

Elephant on the bank of the Zambezi River, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.
Dea /V. Giannella/Getty Images

Wilderness is cooperating with the investigation, Vincent said.

"This is a tragic event and we extend our deepest condolences to the family of the guest who died," he said in the statement. "We are also, naturally, supporting those guests and the guide involved in this distressing incident."

The elderly woman's remains will be repatriated to her family in the U.S. with support from local Zambian authorities and the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, according to the statement.

Group of Impalas in the bush at the edge of the Kafue River, the Kafue National Park, Zambia.
Dea/Getty Images

Last month, a similar bull elephant attack took place in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa.

Videos of the March 18 incident show a bull elephant lifting a 22-seat safari truck up several times with his trunk before letting it drop. There were no deaths reported in that incident.

Hendry Blom, a bystander who caught the incident on camera, told ABC News, "We were definitely scared, especially for the people in the truck because we thought they might die."

ABC News' Victoria Beaule contributed to this report.

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