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The BBC's Liz Mackean reports
"The Keeper had multiple injuries"
 real 28k

Monday, 7 February, 2000, 18:30 GMT
Elephant crushes keeper

Indian elephant An Indian elephant was involved in the accident

A 27-year-old keeper has been killed by an elephant at a wild animal park near Folkestone in Kent.

Darren Cockrill, was working in the female Indian elephant's stall at the Port Lympne park when he is understood to have been crushed.

He was taken to the William Harvey hospital in Ashford but died on arrival.

Mr Cockrill is the fifth keeper to be killed in 20 years at one of the zoos owned by millionaire John Aspinall.

Aspinall zoo tragedies
1980 - two keepers killed within months of each other by one tigress, Zaya
1984 - 22-year-old elephant keeper crushed to death
1994 - tiger keeper dies after being attacked by Zaya's great-grandson, Balkash

Mr Aspinall's policy of allowing keepers to bond with the animals has attracted many visitors but has also proved controversial.

Mr Aspinall was in South Africa when the latest accident happened but paid tribute to Mr Cockrill saying he "was one of the best".

He added: "The Port Lympne elephant section is the best in the world of which I am very proud.

"This is a severe blow to us all at Port Lympne. My sympathy goes to his mother, father and girlfriend."

Failed resuscitation

A zoo spokesman said La Petite had only arrived at Port Lympne from an Austrian safari park in October last year.

He said: "The exact circumstances of his death are not known. He had multiple injuries."

He said the man had been found dead by his colleagues in La Petite's stall at lunchtime, but attempts to resuscitate him had failed.

The spokesman said: "It seems he may have trusted La Petite to be as reliable and friendly as the other cows which had been in his care and known to him for seven years."

A team of three health and safety officers from Shepway District Council were called to the scene.

Council spokesman Ray Lewis said: "The details of the death are unclear - we are still investigating.

"We have got a team of three there now looking at the incident together with the police.

"Port Lympne is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the south east and it is one of the top zoos. In fact they don't even call it a zoo, it is a wildlife park, the animals are slightly more free."

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