Elephant hurls keeper, injures tourist

PHUKET: A disgruntled elephant at Phuket Zoo picked up and threw its keeper with its trunk on November 6, causing Scottish tourist Louise Fletcher to fall from the elephant’s back. She was then kicked by the elephant, resulting in serious leg injuries. Recovering at Phuket International Hospital, Ms Fletcher yesterday recalled the incident. “A worker at the zoo suggested I go for an elephant ride. But when I got on the elephant’s back, it stood up, picked up a mahout with its trunk and threw him up in the air. Then it kicked him. “This caused me to fall off the elephant and I was kicked too, breaking my left leg and tearing a gash in my right thigh.” Ms Fletcher’s description of the incident, which was captured on video by her boyfriend, Forbes Taylor, was confirmed today by Charnchit Rattanaporn, one of the zoo’s elephant keepers. Kaporn, 25, the mahout attacked by the 16-year-old bull elephant, Pleikaew, suffered only light cuts and bruises. He was unavailable for comment on the incident because, K. Charnchit said, he had resigned from his job at the zoo. Panchanok Hiran, Marketing Manager at the zoo, told the Gazette yesterday, “We are so sorry about this accident. It was caused by carelessness. Normally, we have a seat on the elephant’s back, but on that day the staff forgot. “The zoo opened four years ago, and this is the first time an incident like this has occurred. It’s an extremely rare occurrence. “We have accident insurance for visitors, but I apologize to Ms Fletcher and Mr Taylor for this mistake. It was our fault,” she said. “This was a big lesson. We must be more careful, so that it won’t happen again,” she said. Ms Fletcher, 26, and Mr Taylor went to the zoo on Soi Parlai on the first day of a five-day holiday, intending to see some monkeys. Ms Fletcher said that after the accident, zoo staff and the manager helped her and treated her well. “The zoo’s insurance paid me 20,000 baht. Although it’s not enough [to pay the hospital bill], I think they did their best.” Doctors expect Ms Fletcher to leave the hospital soon and to make a full recovery in about three months. “I’m not angry at anyone,” Ms Fletcher added. “I don’t hate Phuket; I think it was just a case of bad luck. Phuket is still beautiful.” But when asked if she will return to Phuket, Ms Fletcher replied, “No.”

Phuket News

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