He lived just like he died: with elephants on his brain.
Veterinarian Dr. Jim Laurita co-founder of a circus elephant rehabilitation facility in Hope, Maine was killed was killed Tuesday when an elephant under his care stomped him to death.
The Portland Press Herald reports that authorities arrived at Hope Elephants on Tuesday morning to find the 56-year-old dead from what they initially believed to be a fall to the cement floor that resulted in serious head trauma. An autopsy performed that afternoon found instead that the actual cause of death was “asphyxiation and fractures from chest compressions.” In other words, an elephant stomped him to death.
Laurita began working in elephants when he was employed by Carson & Barnes Circus in the late 70s and early 80s. Although hired as a juggler, the future vet was asked to help care for the elephants. Laurita continued working with pachyderms through his education as a vet. In 2011 he and his brother opened a facility to care for the same animals that would end his life.
A statement on the Hope Elephants Facebook page reads in part, “Jim’s passion for all animals, but especially elephants, was boundless. It was Jim’s ability share that passion with all around him that not only helped to make our organization a reality, but also enriched and enhanced the lives of all those who had a chance to know Jim. It was through education that Jim passed on his passion and the importance of wildlife conservation.”
Unfortunately, the real education Jim passed on is that elephants can be deadly.