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from the Electronic Telegraph, London
of Briton gored by elephant still a mystery
By Nigel Bunyan
May 12, 2001
A BRITISH woman was gored to death when a bull elephant went berserk during a show for tourists in Thailand, an inquest heard yesterday.
Andrea Taylor, 20, a trainee nurse who had been sitting with her family in the front row, was tossed into the air after being impaled on one of the animal's tusks. Her elder sister, Helen, now 25, suffered serious abdominal injuries in the attack, while their father, Geoffrey, needed surgery for leg wounds.
Yesterday the North Merseyside coroner, Christopher Sumner, ruled that Miss Taylor's death on April 24 last year was accidental. He told her relatives: "Unfortunately, I cannot be sure there was gross negligence, so I must record a verdict of accidental death."
At the time of the incident Mr Taylor, 52, a retired glass worker from St Helens, Merseyside, said he believed the rogue elephant, Phlai Ngoen, had been teased by Chinese tourists seated behind his party. But his theory was dismissed by Nick Ellerton, a warden at Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside, who said: "We cannot be sure what caused this animal to attack.
"The elephant put its head down and persistently attacked. It was not going after food. Elephants can and do target individuals, but it is unlikely they would attack anyone offering bananas as they must have seen this happen thousands of times before."
Mr Ellerton added: "All elephants are unpredictable, bull elephants especially. There have been 25 keeper deaths in the last 10 years in Western zoos, and allowing mature bull elephants into contact with people in an enclosed space is an accident waiting to happen."
Mr Taylor, who learned of his daughter's death the day after she was gored, said: "I did not see the moment the animal attacked as I had turned away. All I recall is being flung to the side. After it was over I saw Andrea and knew she was seriously injured."
Helen Taylor, an engineering manager, said: "I saw the two elephants getting nearer and thought they would stop. But I suddenly noticed a change in one elephant's eye and it came towards us and started to attack."
The rogue elephant's trainer, or mahout, has since been charged with negligence and causing death and injuries. However, Mr Taylor alleges that the showground's owners have yet to erect adequate barriers between the audience and the elephants.
He said after the hearing: "Unless proper safety precautions are put in place it is only a matter of time before another tragedy happens. We are in touch with the Thai authorities in the hope they will learn the painful lessons of Andrea's death, and we will not rest until they take notice."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2001.
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