An elephant trampled its handler to death and ran off with two Russian tourists -- a mother and her 9-year-old daughter -- who were riding it during a trek in southern Thailand, police said Monday.

Rescue teams tracked down the elephant about 1.8 miles away and tranquilized it to rescue the tourists clinging to its back, police Lt. Col. Narong Laksanawimol said.

"It took almost three hours for the elephant to calm down completely. We had to tie it to a tree," Narong said by telephone.

He said the animal began attacking the 60-year-old handler about 15 minutes after the start of what was supposed to be a scenic ride for the tourists near a waterfall in the city of Phang Nga. The handler's crushed body was found in a creek.

He said the male elephant had never attacked anyone since it began working for a tourist company two years ago, adding that the animal was in musth, a state of aggressive sexual excitement.