Security Guard Trampled to Death by Elephant Next to Kruger National Park

A security guard has been killed by a wild elephant while working at a mine in South Africa, having previously spoken of spotting dangerous wild animals in the area.

Eric Kgatla was trampled to death on Saturday. He was killed while guarding a phosphate mine operated by the Foskor corporation near the town of Phalaborwa in the northeastern Limpopo province. He is thought to have died at around 4 a.m., Sowetan Live reported.

Local media reports indicated that the elephant may have escaped from the Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa. However, Ike Phaahla, a spokesperson for the Kruger National Park, told Newsweek by email that the elephant did not escape from the park.

Kgatla is survived by wife Rebotile Matlou and their four children. "He left home at around 4 p.m. on Friday, promising to return the following day where he would take our three children out for shopping as he would be off duty," Matlou explained. "He said he was going to relieve his colleague when I last spoke to him."

Matlou found out her husband—who had been working as a guard for 10 years—had been killed when his employer came to see her on Saturday morning. "I did not know anything then, but became suspicious that something bad might have happened to my husband," she explained.

Frans Mkhondo, a spokesperson for the mine, told News24 that a fellow guard "heard sounds of an elephant" and went out to look for the source. "Upon arrival he found an elephant outside the guard house."

He then realized that Kgatla was not in the guard house and phoned for help. But by the time security arrived, the elephant had disappeared. Kgatla's body was found trampled behind the guard house, Mkhondo explained.

The mine is close to the famous Kruger National Park, which runs along the border with neighboring Mozambique.

Kgatla had told his wife that he often saw dangerous animals in the vicinity. "He would tell me about his encounter with dangerous animals while executing his duties. But I never thought one of those animals would take his life," she explained.

A pride of 14 lions was recently spotted close to the mine, News24 noted. Mkhondo noted that the mine's location adjacent to the Kruger National Park meant "animals do break the fence and move into our area."

He noted that "lions were also spotted on the premises...hopefully they will be darted and returned to the national park." Phaahla, however, told Newsweek the lions had not come from Kruger National Park.

One of Kgatla's colleagues, who did not wish to be named, told Sowetan Live that elephants were often active in the area around the time of Kgatla's death. "The animals normally make movements when there is minimal noise in the area," he said.

Police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said officers were working with "the relevant departments" to locate the animal responsible and "to make sure that we save the lives of other people."

Solly Mashimbye, named by Sowetan Live as Kgatla's employer, said he would be meeting with the family to discuss funeral arrangements. "I still have to hear from the family what is it that they had decided, but as a company we will definitely assist with funeral costs," he explained.

This article has been updated to include information supplied by Kruger National Park.

Elephant, trampled, security guard, Kruger National Park
This file photo shows an African elephant in Kruger National Park on July 8, 2013 in Lower Sabie, South Africa. Getty/Dan Kitwood