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Sean and Helen Gothe at Bangkok Hospital Phuket today

Phuket Tourist Police Quiz Elephant Rampage Survivors

Thursday, February 24, 2011
PHUKET TOURIST police were interviewing survivors of a berserk elephant's killer rampage today to compile an accurate account of what went wrong.

With them at the bedside of three survivors in Bangkok Hospital Phuket in Phuket City were several representatives from the tour company, Siam Safari.

One victim, Australian Helen Gothe, will be discharged this afternoon, her husband Sean said. She has a broken rib, and a bruised chest and foot after falling from one of the elephants during Tuesday's rampage.

Another woman from Switzerland, a 63-year-old named Christine, is still in intensive care, with 12 broken ribs and a punctured lung. The elephant she was riding on with an Englishman - they were strangers - crashed her into a tree.

The Swiss woman's best friend was trampled to death by a male elephant, Buki. The dead woman was a widow with three daughters.

The three elephants, each carrying two people, were trekking through Khao Sok National Park north of Phuket when the rampage took place at a viewpoint clearing, with another elephant trekking party also looking on.

The Englishman riding with the Swiss woman jumped to the ground and, like Mr Gothe, escaped injury. The other hospitalised survivor, a Swiss man named Michel, suffered abrasions and a cut to the head.

Buki's rampage came about 40 minutes into a 90-minute trek, Mr Gothe said. He and his wife were on Noi, a 31-year-old female, which raced off, spilling his wife to the ground, when Buki went berserk.

Doctors have said that the Swiss woman in intensive care will have to stay in hospital for at least two weeks before she can contemplate flying home.

The injured were driven by ambulance from a local hospital near Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani province, where the rampage occurred, to Phuket at a very slow speed because of the seriousness of the Swiss woman's injuries.

Mr Gothe said it was the first time he and his wife had visited Thailand, although they were both animal lovers and had ridden elephants before in other countries.

They saw a docile elephant at Phuket Zoo earlier in their holiday and decided to take a trek.

''I am fairly sure we won't ride an elephant again,'' he said. Helen Gothe recalls lying on the ground as the rampage continued, and hearing her husband shout: ''Please help my wife!''

It was 20 or 30 minutes before Mr Gothe learned that his wife was alive after being thrown to the ground.

Police in Panom, near the national park, said today that Buki's mahout may be arrested after a police inquiry.

The animal is now confined to a compound and will not be used on treks until provincial authorities have decided its future.

Lieutenant Colonel Apidet Chuaykue, from Panom, also interviewed survivors on Phuket today.

The Gothes are heading back to their Patong resort this afternoon and will be flying home on February 28.
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Who CAN help these elephants from being exploited and mistreated? I was in Phuket today an saw 2 elephants on a very short chained bye the roadside. Very sad.

Posted by Anonymous on February 24, 2011 22:52


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