A worker from Spain’s Cabarceno Natural Park died on Tuesday after he was hit by a trunk of a female elephant, the zoo announced in a press release.
Joaquin Gutiérrez Arnáiz, 44, was struck by the animal at around 8:30 am during its daily cleaning routine – he was standing in the corridor used by the elephants to enter and exist their stables when the accident happened.
Unexpectedly, one of the female elephants, who was with her baby at the time, hit Arnáiz with her trunk, pushing him over to the bars of the enclosure.
The man’s colleagues immediately called an ambulance, which rushed him to Marqués de Valdecilla University Hospital. He died three hours later.
The incident is now being investigated by Civil Guard and Judicial Police, the park’s authorities say, adding that the tragedy has caused a great “commotion” among the zoo’s staffers.
Cantabria’s Minister of Industry, Tourism, Innovation, Transport, and Trade Francisco Javier López Marcano sent his condolences to the man’s family, saying that everyone was “deeply shocked” by the event. Marcano also announced that a tribute will be paid to Arnáiz, who worked at the park for 19 years.
"We are deeply shocked," the minister said. "Cabarceno loses a person very dear to his colleagues and a worker dedicated to his work as a caregiver for almost two decades.”
According to the press release, Arnáiz had “extensive experience in the management and care of elephants.”
It’s not clear whether any measures or precautionary steps will be taken in relation to the elephant involved.
Cabarceno officials say that it's first fatal accident to occur in the park’s 30-year history, which is internationally recognised for breeding African elephants.