Elephant Kills 79-Year-Old on African Safari

An aggressive elephant killed a 79-year-old woman in Zambia when it charged at the safari vehicle she was in.

Media in the woman’s home state of Minnesota later confirmed the victim was Gail Mattson of Hopkins, and reported her age as 79.

Mattson was part of a March 30 safari outing in the Kafue Nature Reserve, along with five other tourists and a guide. Video of the incident showed a bull elephant ramming the vehicle, jostling it and the occupants. The BBC reported the elephant eventually flipped it over multiple times.

Rescuers airlifted Mattson to a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, LaVanguardia reported. Four other occupants of the vehicle sustained injuries but survived, and are undergoing “trauma counseling.”

Kevin Vincent, the CEO of Wilderness, the company providing the safari, explained that the vehicle was “blocked” by terrain and couldn’t escape the advancing elephant.

“This is a tragic and we extend our deepest condolences to the family of the guest who died,” Vincent said.

Mattson’s daughter, Rona Wells, shared photos of her mother’s trip on Facebook following the incident.

“She may have been almost 80 years old, but you never would have known it,” Mattson’s longtime friend, John Longabaugh, told Minneapolis-St. Paul’s KARE 11. “She was enjoying every minute of her trip in Africa.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.