A British tourist was gored to death by a Thai elephant in front of his horrified teenage daughter while trekking on the island of Koh Samui. The daughter and the elephant's handler escaped with minor injuries.
Gareth Crowe, 36, was thrown from the elephant named Golf before being trampled by the mammoth. Local media reports suggest Crowe was also stabbed by its tusk.
Contradictory versions have emerged over what agitated the animal. Eilidh Hughes, Crowe's 16-year-old daughter, posted on social media that her father did not taunt the animal. "He was not teasing the elephant as I was his 16-year-old daughter who is lying in hospital and I was on it. I know everything that happened," she told Thai media from the hospital bed.
According to another account, the animal turned on the tourists after the mahout – the elephant's handler – attempted to take pictures of the group. The marauding elephant ran off to a nearby forest after the attack. Thai authorities say an investigation has been initiated. Officials said that the handler was new and hence the elephant was not accustomed to him as yet. The hot weather could also have agitated Golf, they added.
Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement: "We are offering support to the family of a British national who has sadly died following an incident in Koh Samui, Thailand, and are making contact with the local authorities to seek further information." The family is thought to be originally from Isle of Islay in Scotland, but later moved to the Scottish mainland.
Crowe's partner, Catherine Hughes, who was not part of the trek, was also on the family holiday along with their son. She said: "My head's all over the place. We were all here on holiday. My son and I didn't go on the elephants. I've been given no information as to what happened or how it happened. Eilidh is OK but I don't know exactly what happened."
The south-east Asian nation has about 4,000 trained elephants primarily used in the tourism trade. The use of animals has increasingly been scrutinised in recent years by rights groups. The charity World Animal Protection took the opportunity to highlight the animal abuse taking place.
Offering condolences to Crowe's loved ones, the charity said, "Elephants are cruelly abused to tame them enough so they give rides and perform in shows. Most tourists don't know about these abuses, or the potential danger they put themselves in. If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then the chances are it is cruel and the animal is suffering."