Elephant attack leaves American woman dead in Zambia’s Kafue National Park

Johannesburg — An elephant attack that left an American woman dead in Zambia was captured in harrowing cellphone video over the weekend. The clip, shot by tourists in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, begins inside an open safari vehicle during a game drive.

In the distance, a large bull elephant can be seen coming toward the vehicle. The occupants of the vehicle cannot be seen in the video clip, but someone is heard, saying: “Oh my goodness,” before a man says, “it’s coming fast.”

The vehicle stops and then another voice, presumably the game ranger, tries to ward off the elephant verbally as the large pachyderm hooks its tusks onto the vehicle and rolls it several times.

Family members confirmed that Gail Mattson, a 79-year-old Minnesotan, was killed in the attack. In the post on Facebook, Rona Wells said her mother had died in “a tragic accident while on her dream adventure.”


Mattson, a retired loan officer, was 11 days into a month-long vacation overseas, her family told WCCO, describing her as “adventurous” and “loved by everybody.”

Wilderness Safaris, which operates the tour in the Zambian park, said in a statement that it was cooperating with national authorities to investigate the incident and it offered condolences to Mattson’s family.

Wilderness said the other tourists traveling with Mattson were also Americans, four of whom sustained minor injuries in the attack.

“Our guides are extremely well trained, but sadly the terrain and vegetation was such that the route became blocked,” the company said, explaining that the ranger “could not move the vehicle out of harm’s way quickly enough.”


Mattson was evacuated to a hospital in South Africa after the incident but succumbed to her injuries.

Kafue National Park is Zambia’s largest national park at 8,650 square miles. It’s a popular tourist destination as it’s home to five of sub-Saharan Africa’s iconic big animal species, lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceros and buffalo.

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