Safety and OSHA News

Handler killed by circus elephant

No doubt that it was a workplace accident, so OSHA is investigating a fatality linked to a circus elephant.

Elephant handler Andrew Anderton was found lying on the floor at the Irem Shrine Armory in Wilkes Barre, PA, which was hosting the James Hamid Circus. Standing nearby was Dumbo the elephant.

Circus Chairman John Richards says Anderton was alone with Dumbo when the incident occurred.

Richards says it’s believed Anderton was trying to fix some electrical wires in the building’s ceiling which were sparking near Dumbo.

Richards speculates the elephant, in an attempt to protect Anderton from the sparking wires, grabbed him and moved him away.

The coroner says Anderton didn’t suffer any electrical injuries and was bumped by the elephant. The coroner has no doubt the elephant caused the multiple traumatic injuries that led to Anderton’s death.

Anderton worked with the elephant for 20 years.

The armory, home to a National Guard brigade, was slated to receive a major face lift last fall including major improvements to electrical systems. The brigade’s facility manager and an electrician inspected the building before the circus arrived and found it safe.

Although this is certainly a unique workplace death, it shares one thing in common with other on-the-job fatalities where an employee is working alone: It will be difficult to know exactly what led to the death because of a lack of witnesses.

Richards told The Times Leader there were only two entities that know exactly what happened. Now one is dead and the elephant can’t talk.

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  1. I hope they don’t penalize the elephant. People need to remember, not matter how docile or seemingly domesticated an animal is, it’s still an animal capable of unpredictable behaviors. Animal trainers probably shouldn’t work without another human being ready to intervene if something goes wrong..


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