Woman dies after being hit by zebra

AN ELDERLY woman from Ipswich died from a series of complicated medical conditions- months after she was hit by a zebra on safari in Africa.

AN ELDERLY woman from Ipswich died from a series of complicated medical conditions- months after she was hit by a zebra on safari in Africa.

An inquest into Eileen Whale's death heard that when she was on holiday with her husband, Charles, in Kenya last September, they went on a safari tour. While waiting for the jeeps to depart from the safari camp, a zebra, which has been described as “semi-tame” and a pet at the camp, suddenly bolted, and ran into 77-year-old Mrs Whale.

At the inquest today at Endeavour House, Ipswich, it was heard that Mrs Whale, a grandmother, was flown into the air and landed on her back.

After five months of suffering serious internal problems, she finally died at her home in High View Road on February 21 this year.

Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean heard that prior to the incident on September 29, the zebra had been causing “a nuisance” around the camp and there were rumours it had bitten a woman's thigh.

In a statement by Mr Whale, which was read out in court, he said they were waiting with a group of people for the jeeps to arrive when the zebra was seen trying to open a woman's handbag. Somehow it was spooked as it suddenly bolted and ran into his wife.

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He said: “My wife had no chance. She flew into the air and fell down and landed on her back.”

Doctors giving evidence at the inquest believed that the incident in Kenya led to a series of problems which resulted in her death, as she had been well and mobile before the trip.

Mrs Whale's GP, Dr Juno Jesuthasan added: “My belief is this lady was well prior to the trip. The incident with the zebra was the beginning of all these problems.”

Dr Dean gave a narrative conclusion, saying: “It is beyond dispute that she died from a combination of pancreatitis and gastrointestinal haemorrhage, having suffered a series of medical complications after being accidentally hit by a zebra in Africa in 2008.”

He said it was probable that the gastrointestinal problems were caused as a result of the prolonged hospitalisation following the zebra incident. He said it was possible that the pancreatitis was caused by the same incident but there was no way to be sure of this.

A statement on behalf of Mrs Whale's family reads: “Eileen Whale left this country aged but with no ongoing major health problems for a once in a lifetime Safari Holiday in Kenya.

“Tragically she was struck down by a charging zebra within the hotel compound and seriously injured. It took a long time to recover sufficiently to be able to fly home with the support of a nurse flown out from England.

“She deteriorated within a day of her return and spent virtually the rest of her life in and out of hospital and in a great deal of pain which she bore very stoically until finally losing her life.

“Her family regard her death as being a consequence of the injuries received from the zebra.”

A statement by the African Safari Club said: “First and foremost, African Safari Club wishes to express their sincere condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Eileen Whale.

“Reference has been made at the inquest of an incident with a zebra, while Mrs Whale was on holiday in Kenya in September 2008, almost five months prior to her sad death on February 21, 2009,

“By way of background, the zebra, having been orphaned as a foal, had been kept as a pet by staff at African Safari Club's private lodge, Mara Buffalo Camp, for the past seven years.

“Our office in Mombasa has advised us that there had been no incidents of this nature prior to this occasion.

“The safety and wellbeing of our customers is our main priority and, upon arrival, guests are advised to take care around the zebra and to avoid making any sudden movements that might alarm her.

“We can confirm that arrangements are being made for the zebra to be collected by the Kenyan Wildlife Service as it cannot survive in the wild. Alternatively we are negotiating a placement for it at the Nairobi National Park that houses the Animal Orphanage in Nairobi.

“No other animals are currently being kept as pets at any of the safari lodges operated by African Safari Club and, as always, strict security is in place to ensure the safety of our guests.”

September 29: Mrs Whale is on holiday with her husband, Charles, when she is hit by a zebra.

Over the next few days, her pain gets worse as she was barely able to walk, and had to be stretchered in and out of the hotel for various hospital visits.

She was admitted to a hospital in Kenya twice - one time for 17 days - for various problems following the incident. During this time it was reported she had pneumonia, renal failure and restricted blood flow.

November 14: She is flown back to England and goes into the Bluebird Lodge for rehabilitation. However the pain is so intense, that she is transferred to Ipswich Hospital.

She has various stays at hospital as she suffers a whole host of internal health problems.

She died at home on February 21.

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