US Woman's 'Dream Adventure' With Elephants Turns Fatal

Gail Mattson, 79, was killed when a bull elephant flipped a safari vehicle in Zambia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2024 11:49 AM CDT

An American tourist on a safari tour of Zambia's Kafue National Park died Saturday when an elephant charged the vehicle carrying her. The woman, whom KSTP identifies as 79-year-old Gail Mattson of Minnesota and Arizona, was staying at Lufupa Camp and had ventured out with five others for a guided photography tour, USA Today reports. During the venture, a bull elephant charged the group's vehicle. ABC News aired footage of the elephant trotting up to the left side of the vehicle, then using its tusks to flip it over. Mattson apparently suffered fatal injuries. Another woman was taken to a private hospital in South Africa, according to tour operator Wilderness. Four others were treated for minor injuries.

In a Facebook post, Mattson's daughter, Rona Wells, said her mother died in a "tragic accident while on her dream adventure," per NBC News. "She had told us that this safari was going to be her last big adventure," a friend tells KSTP. "She was going to be 80, and she felt like she would start slowing down." In a Tuesday statement, Wilderness CEO Keith Vincent said "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," per ABC. Vincent extended condolences to Mattson's family and said the company was "supporting those guests and the guide involved." (More Zambia stories.)

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