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Founder of elephant facility crushed by one of his animals

By Mason White 11:01 AM September 10, 2014
James Laurita 

By: Hydar Tomar
(Scroll down for video) A man was crushed to death by an elephant he cared for.

56-year-old James Laurita, opened a home for retired circus elephants.

Laurita lived in Hope, Maine, with his wife and two sons. Their home was close to the elephants shelter so he can look after the animals.

Knox County authorities said that Laurita tripped and fell in the yard where the elephants were housed.

While he was down, one of the two Asian elephants stepped on top of him, crushing his chest and cutting off his air supply.

Laurita had originally built the 1,200 square foot barn and rehab center for retired circus elephants named Rosie and Opal. He later took in other elephants and opened the place to visitors.

The Medical Examiner said the cause of death was “asphyxia due to multiple fractures and chest compression.”

He said that he does not suspect “any aggressive behavior by the elephant.”

“This is clearly a tragic accident,” Medical Examiner Mark Belserene said.

The two Asian elephants weighed about 8,000 pounds each, according to the website of the institution.

Laurita sold his veterinary practice in 2011, to establish his non-profit organization and to focus on the care of Rosie and Opal.