NAIROBI, Kenya – A lone elephant charged out of the brush as an American family was hiking near Mount Kenya and trampled to death a mother and the 1-year-old daughter she held in her arms, officials said Wednesday.
Four adults and the baby were walking with an unarmed guide just outside Mount Kenya National Park on Monday morning when the elephant charged, said Kenya Wildlife Service official Michael Kipkeu.
The family was hiking on a nature trail about 1 mile from the Castle Forest Lodge, where the family was vacationing, said the owner, Melia van Laar.
"The elephant emerged from the bush at full speed without any warning," van Laar said. "Everybody ran away, but the lady, burdened by the weight of the baby, perhaps, or in panic, was not able to run fast enough."
Officials identified the woman as Sharon Brown, 39, and said her daughter's name was Margaux. No hometown in the United States was given. Brown and her husband are listed as faculty members at the International School of Kenya. Friends and colleagues at the American-curriculum K-12 school held a memorial service on Wednesday.
A school official declined to comment on the incident, as did a representative of the family.
Walking tours of Kenya's many national parks are common, though hikers are advised to have an armed guard with them if the park is known to have elephants, said Kentice Tikolo, a spokeswoman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.
"It was a lone elephant and lone elephants can be quite dangerous," Tikolo said. "It probably felt quite threatened."
Tikolo said deaths by charging elephants are rare in Kenya, though they happen about once a year.
Because the Castle Forest Lodge lies just outside the boundary of Mount Kenya National Park, the family was walking with a hotel guide, who is not allowed to carry a gun, said Tikolo. The national park is about 180 miles north of the capital, Nairobi.