Community reacts to death of Dr. Thomas McAfee: Former UCSD dean trampled to death in Africa
Last Updated: 95 days ago
SAN DIEGO - Plans were under way Thursday to celebrate the life of a former UC San Diego dean who was trampled to death by an elephant while vacationing in Tanzania.
Dr. Thomas McAfee, who recently resigned as dean of clinical affairs at the university, was killed Friday while on a walking safari in the 1,096-square-mile Tarangire National Park with two other people, according to multiple news reports.
The trio ran after it came upon a herd of about 50 elephants, but the 58- year-old McAfee "fell down and one of the elephants trampled on him," The Citizen, a newspaper and website in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, reported.
"It's a true tragedy and great loss to all of us at UCSD," Mounir Soliman, assistant vice chancellor and executive director of UCSD Health Sciences International, wrote in an email to NBC San Diego. "We are planning several events in celebration of Dr. McAfee's life."
McAfee joined Health Sciences in 2002.
"(He) served us and worked alongside us for more than 11 years, and his death is a great loss -- both to many of us personally, and to the field of health care which would have benefited enormously from his talent and dedication in coming years," doctors David Brenner, Paul Viviano and Larry Friedman wrote in an joint email to UCSD staff.
It was unclear whether McAfee and his companions were accompanied on their walking safari by a guide. The Citizen reported that visitors exploring the park on foot are supposed to be accompanied by armed rangers. About 500 people are killed by elephants in Africa and Asia annually, according to published reports.
African elephants can weigh up to 15,000 pounds and are known to be unpredictable.
"Particularly male elephants have been known to come upon people and startle them as well as themselves," San Diego Zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons told U-T San Diego. "Very often it may not be an aggressive action. It's just they're so big and so quick, any sudden movement can have terrible consequences."
McAfee's sister, San Francisco Bay Area resident Skyli McAfee, told the newspaper that her brother was a regular world traveler who had been to Africa several times and was aware of how unpredictable elephants could be.
"My brother certainly was aware of those risks, but he was doing what he wanted to do," she said. "He was very supportive of conservation efforts, and his family continues to be."
McAfee was set to assume a new job as chief executive of the Keck Medicine of USC Medical Foundation in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
According to The Daily Mail Online, a news website based in the United Kingdom, McAfee's body remained in Tanzania pending the issuance of a death certificate. It was unclear when it might be returned to the United States.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.