A guard protecting mine workers from a pride of 14 hungry lions – thought to have escaped Kruger National Park – met a brutal end after being trampled to death by an elephant.
It is believed tragic Eric Kgatla, 45, left his guard hut in darkness after perhaps answering a call of nature or investigating noises out in the bush by torchlight.
It happened just days after a two-year-old boy was killed by a leopard at the famous national park.
Mr Kgatla and his colleagues were on full alert after a pride of man-eating lions were found to be living very close to the phosphate mine and had been ordered to be on keen lookout for the predators near Phalaborwa, South Africa.
He surprised an elephant which immediately attacked and trampled him, killing him instantly, and his body was found by a fellow guard who heard the animal trumpeting around 4am on Saturday.
The colleague called for immediate medical assistance but nothing could be done for the victim.
The Foskor Mine in Phalaborwa is just five miles from the South African game reserve and had been on full alert ever since the lions had been seen close to their workings.
Mine spokesperson Frans Mokhondo said: “According to the report one security guard was busy patrolling when he heard an elephant trumpeting and he tried to warn the other guard.
“He ran to the other guard room but he could not find him and then he searched for him and found his body not far from the guard room. He had been trampled and the elephant had gone”.
It is thought that the rogue elephant may have broken down a fence to get out of the nearby Kruger National Park and it is believed to have wandered off to the area where the lions were living.
Mr Mokhondo added: “Our premises are adjacent to the Kruger National Park so animals do break the fence and move into our area and we have lions also now spotted on the mine premises.
“They will be tracked down today and hopefully returned to the national park.”
A family friend said: “His wife is not good and this is a huge shock. It would seem he was told to watch out for the lions in the dark but an elephant that got him instead.”
South African Police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said: “The guard was killed instantly and was certified dead at the scene and he has been identified as Eric Kgatla originally from Bolobedu and we are investigating.”