Dar es Salaam. The American tourist killed by an elephant on Saturday while on vacation in Tanzania was an adventure-loving doctor who died just days before he was due to take up a new executive position in the US.
Dr Thomas McAfee, 58, who was a dean at the University of California’s San Diego campus, was on vacation in Tanzania before taking up a new role as chief executive of Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) Medical Foundation.
A family member confirmed Dr McAfee’s death when she spoke to the US media on Wednesday.
“He had an accidental encounter with an elephant,” said Ms Skyli McAfee, who identified herself as Dr McAfee’s sister, adding that she had been notified of the accident.
She said her brother was a regular world traveller who had been to Africa several times and knew that wild elephants can be unpredictable.
“My brother certainly was aware of those risks, but he was doing what he wanted to do,” she said. “He was very supportive of conservation efforts and his family continues to be.”
Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) clarified yesterday that Dr McAfee was killed by an elephant in a hunting block outside Tarangire National Park.
Tanapa Public Relations Manager Pascal Shelutete told The Citizen that the American tourist was on a walking safari in an area bordering the expansive park.
“He was attacked outside Tarangire National Park,” he said, adding that Dr McAfee was rushed to Tarangire Health Centre where he was pronounced dead.
The US government sent its condolences to the family of Dr McAfee, who was on Tuesday due to have begun as CEO of the newly formed Keck Medicine of USC Medical Foundation.
“We can confirm the death of US citizen Thomas McAfee in Tanzania on August 31. We offer our condolences to his family and loved ones on their loss. We are in contact with the family and are providing all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of those affected, we decline further comment,” said a spokesman for the US State Department.
Dr McAfee was in the company of two compatriots when the incident took place, according to acting Manyara Regional Police Commander Mussa Marambo.
He said the three tourists were viewing game on foot when they stumbled upon a herd of about 50 elephants.
“Sensing danger, the tourists took to their heels, but unfortunately McAfee fell down and one of the elephants trampled on him. He died while receiving treatment at a nearby dispensary,” Mr Marambo said.
Dr McAfee’s body was taken to the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre as arrangements were being made to ferry it home.