One Killed, Four Injured by Charging Elephant on African Safari

( – On March 30th, a 79-year-old American woman was killed when a bull elephant “unexpectedly charged” at a safari vehicle carrying six tourists and a guide in Kafue National Park in Zambia, flipping the vehicle over.

Gail Mattson, from Arizona and Minnesota, was on an excursion to view wildlife, known as a “game drive,” when the elephant charged the vehicle.

Video footage shows the elephant chasing the safari vehicle just before tipping it while the guide is heard yelling repeatedly at the elephant.

Wilderness Chief Executive Officer Keith Vincent said the guides are “extremely well trained and experienced.” However, Vincent said the guide could not “move the vehicle out of harm’s way quickly enough” because the route was blocked.

Four people suffered injuries, and another woman was transported to a medical facility in South Africa due to her injuries, according to a statement from the conservation and hospitality company running the trip, Wilderness.

Blake Vetter, Mattson’s son, said the U.S. embassy notified the family about Mattson’s death, which he said was “a freak accident.”

In a post on Facebook, Rona Wells, Mattson’s daughter, said this was a “dream adventure” for her mother, a grandmother and retired mortgage professional. Her daughter shared her mother’s “amazing pictures” from the trip in the post. According to her family, one of the pictures from March 30th, the day of the accident, shows her holding a flower on the safari vehicle.

Zambia is a popular location for safari travelers due to the quality of Zambia’s guides and the number of national parks, including the country’s largest national park, Kafue National Park. Home to over 200 animal species, Kafue is known for its leopard and lion sightings and many different antelope species rarely seen anywhere else.

Mattson is not the first American who has died in Kafue National Park. Bianca Rudolph was killed in her hunting cabin after suffering a fatal shotgun wound in September 2016. In 2023, Lawrence Rudolph, her husband, was sentenced to serve life in prison for her death.

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