Minnesota woman killed by charging elephant in Zambia

A woman from Minnesota is dead after a bull elephant charged a vehicle she was in during a game drive in Zambia, her family confirmed to FOX 9 on Thursday. 

Gail Mattson, 79, died from injuries sustained in the elephant attack. 

Her family said Mattson split her time between Minnesota and Arizona. They were planning an 80th birthday party for her in July. 

Mattson was heavily involved with her church and in her community bridge club in Sun City West, Arizona. 


Gail Mattsons family provided this photo from one of her travels.

Her close friends, John Longabaugh and Brenda Biggs, say Mattson was a big traveler and going on an African safari had "always been on her bucket list". 

This trip to Africa, which she took with a friend, was to be her last big vacation out of the country after visiting Europe and Asia in the past. 

A news release from Wilderness, the conservation and hospitality company in charge of the game drive, states that the incident happened on March 30.

Officials say four other guests on the game drive were treated for minor injuries while a fifth guest was taken to a private medical facility in South Africa.  

"At around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, the six guests were on a game drive when the vehicle was unexpectedly charged by the bull elephant," said Wilderness Chief Executive Officer Keith Vincent in a statement. "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."

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Gail Mattson on one of her travels. Photo courtesy of the Mattson family. 

Local authorities, including Kafue National Park management, police, officials with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, along with other law enforcement authorities are also involved in the investigation, according to the release. Wilderness said it is fully cooperating. 

Wilderness said the woman will be repatriated to her family in the United States with the support of local Zambian authorities and the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka.