Shrine Circus Elephant Kills Trainer

Wilkes-Barre, PA (AP)

A circus elephant that kicked a handler before a show, killing him, did so accidentally, a coroner said Saturday.

Andrew Anderton, 48, died from multiple traumatic injuries after he was struck Friday afternoon at the Irem Shrine Circus in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County coroner John Corcoran said after an autopsy was performed. The death of Anderton, whose last residence was in Florida, was ruled "positively an accident," he said.

"The animal, I guess, was moving around ... and the handler, I think, came in from behind him, and the elephant didn't realize he was there and knocked him down," Corcoran said.

The handler had been with the animal for several years and even slept in the same area with it, he said.

"The trainer had come in when he heard the commotion and just called to the elephant, and the elephant backed right off," Corcoran said. "The animal was calm as can be; it was a very good animal."

The elephant kicked the handler, Corcoran said, after a disturbance, which was under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An OSHA spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Saturday.

Police earlier said initial reports indicated the African elephant, Dumbo, had been shocked by an electrical wire and the handler was trying to get the elephant away from the wire when he was kicked.

Police said the elephant was confined after the death and did not participate in Friday night's performance at the 109th Armory, which went on after a moment of silence for the handler. Circus spokesman John Richards said he knew of no other problems with the elephant.

The Irem Shrine Circus began in 1949, and about 30,000 people were expected to attend the 13 scheduled shows in Wilkes-Barre. About 11 tigers and a lion also are part of the circus this year, Richard said.

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