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Charging elephant kills an American woman in Zambia

A charging elephant killed an American woman when it flipped over the car she was traveling in at a national park in Zambia.

The “aggressive” creature buffeted the vehicle carrying six tourists and a guide, tour operator Wilderness said in a statement Tuesday. It added that the 79-year-old victim died after Saturday’s incident on a game drive at the Kafue National Park in western Zambia.

A video circulating on social media apparently showing the incident shows a large elephant running toward a car, which slows down as the animal approaches its left side. The elephant then flips the vehicle over and the passengers can be heard gasping as the car rolls over.

NBC News does not know the condition or identity of the person who filmed the video.

Photos shared online of the car, which is emblazoned with the logo of the tour operator, show it tipped onto its side after the incident, with a deep dent in two of its side doors.

Wilderness, which describes itself as a “leading conservation and hospitality company” operating in eight African countries, including Zambia, did not respond to NBC News when asked to confirm the authenticity of the video and the photos.

But the tour operator’s CEO, Keith Vincent, said in the statement that the company’s “guides are all extremely well trained and experienced.”

“Sadly in this instance the terrain and vegetation was such that the guide’s route became blocked and he could not move the vehicle out of harm’s way quickly enough,” he added.

Gail Mattson. Rona Wells via Facebook

The company did not name the victim but Rona Wells, her daughter, identified her as Gail Mattson in a post on Facebook. She said her mother died in a “tragic accident while on her dream adventure.”

NBC News has reached out to the family for further comment.

“It’s extremely rare to see an elephant that irate,” Marlon du Toit, a wildlife photographer and safari guide, told the “TODAY” show Thursday. “Across Africa, there are thousands and thousands of guests on safari on a daily basis with no negative consequences.”

Another woman was also injured in the incident and taken to a medical facility in South Africa, the Wilderness statement said, adding that four others were treated for minor injuries.

The exact cause of Mattson’s death was unclear, but the company said her body would be repatriated to her family in the United States with the support of local Zambian authorities and the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Lusaka.

“This is a tragic event and we extend our deepest condolences to the family of the guest who died,” the statement added.

Kafue National Park is Zambia’s largest and oldest national park, according to its website, and spans an area of more than 8,000 square miles. Vast regions of the park remain unexplored and the website says it is home to a variety of untamed wildlife.

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