Tuesday, May 28, 2024

American Tourist’s Son Speaks Out After Fatal Elephant Attack in Zambia Safari


The son of Gail Mattson, the 79-year-old American tourist tragically killed in an elephant attack during a safari in Zambia last month has spoken out, expressing understanding and forgiveness towards both the elephant and the tour guide involved in the incident.

Gail Mattson, a grandmother from Minnesota, lost her life while on a game drive with a friend and four other tourists in the Kafue National Park in early April. Despite the tragic outcome, her son, Blake Vetter, has emphasized that his mother was aware of the risks associated with such adventures and held no blame towards the elephant or the driver for the incident.

“Mom was an adventurer at heart, and she understood the inherent risks of exploring the wild. She wouldn’t want any blame placed on the elephant or the driver,” Vetter stated.

Footage from the incident captured the terrifying moment when the elephant charged at the safari vehicle, ultimately flipping it over. Vetter commended the professionalism of the driver, noting that his actions likely prevented further injuries or loss of life.

“The driver stopped because he had to. He did his best to protect the passengers. We believe he saved lives by stopping,” Vetter remarked.

Describing his mother as someone who lived life to the fullest, Vetter shared heartbreaking images from the day of the attack, showing Mattson holding a flower inside the safari vehicle. She had embarked on the safari as her “last big adventure,” according to friends.

The safari company Wilderness, which operates tours in several African countries including Zambia, issued a statement expressing condolences to Mattson’s family and offering support to those affected by the incident. The company highlighted the extensive experience and training of its tour guides.

Meanwhile, investigations into the incident are ongoing, with local authorities in Zambia probing the circumstances surrounding the attack. The exact reason for the elephant’s aggression remains unclear.

This tragic event has brought attention to the challenges faced by both tourists and wildlife in safari environments. It also coincides with broader discussions about elephant populations in Africa, particularly in countries like Botswana, where concerns over increasing numbers have sparked debate over conservation measures.


  1. According to ZAWA, drivers are supposed to be on the designated roads of the game park. That driver went off the road into the thicket (most likely trying to have better view of the elephant) therefore failed to speed off when elephant charged

  2. Driver/guide was at fault. He elephant was showing signs of aggression but rather than react and take counter measures he played right into the elephants hands. Either he panicked and forgot his training or was not adequately trained in the first place.

  3. The Driver/ guide was more interested in Tips from the clients than safety, Where was the Zawa Ranger than is suppose to travel with the group

  4. ZAWA no longer exists. Let the investigation find the truth, it’s very rare for this to happen. The tourists were not outside the vehicle

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