New York Safari Owner 'Trampled' to Death by Antelope in Park, Officials Say

The 81-year-old owner had been feeding animals when tragedy struck.

July 19, 2016, 3:46 PM

— -- The 81-year-old owner of an animal safari park in western New York was killed this week by an antelope from the park in a "tragic accident" that has left his family in shock.

Hans Boxler Sr. had been out feeding animals in a fenced section of his Varysbury, New York, park -- Hidden Valley Animal Adventure -- on Monday evening, when he was unexpectedly "trampled by a Nilgai Antelope that somehow had gotten out of its pen," the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office told ABC News today in a statement.

"Family members located the Antelope near its pen with an open door and secured it when they came looking for Mr. Boxler when he did not return home at his usual time," the sheriff's office said. "Mr. Boxler had been around animals all of his life and actively took care of and fed animals daily."

Boxler's death was determined to be accidental, according to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office. The office said that Boxler suffered multiple blunt force injuries that ultimately caused his death.

Boxler's family told ABC News in a statement today that the 81-year-old park owner "respected the innate nature of his animals, and therefore followed a routine daily, which is why this tragic accident is such a shock."

"We will never know exactly what happened," they said. "Clearly it was something out of the ordinary that caused the animal’s reaction."

Despite the tragedy, the family said they and the rest of Hidden Valley's employees would "continue to take every step we can to uphold the ideals of care that Hans Sr. lived by during his long life."

A private "Celebration of Life" for Boxler has been scheduled for next Wednesday, the family said. Boxler's beloved Belgian horses "will carry him for "one final ride" to his funeral mass at a local church before he is buried, they said.

In the meantime, Hidden Valley Animal Adventure will be closed to the public from Monday through Wednesday to honor Boxler's passing.

"We apologize for the untimely inconvenience this may cause many visitors," the family said, "We appreciate your support at this very difficult time."

ABC News' Devin Villacis and Joyce Alcantara contributed to this report.