Coroner says death of Havant man trampled by an elephant was a tragic accident

Colin Manvell
Colin Manvell
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A retired geography teacher from Havant died after being trampled by a stampeding elephant while on safari in India, an inquest heard.

A hearing today at Portsmouth Guildhall heard that 67-year-old Colin Manvell died at the Masinagudi National Park in the state of Tamil Nadu on the afternoon of September 19 last year.

Mr Manvell, who worked for many years at Warblington School, was a keen traveller and had travelled to India many times before, the inquest was told.

The coroner heard Mr Manvell had been taking photographs of birds by a watering hole when the tragedy happened.

His nephew Roger Manvell, 48, from Hill Head, said his uncle had been in India a week before he died.

‘He was very keen on his photography,’ he said.

‘On the last number of occasions he has been he always gone out with some friends on safari.

‘He was very keen on his photography, particularly birds and flowers.

‘He was always interested in seeing a tiger in the wild.

‘Every time he came back he had been a bit closer to seeing it.

‘But he never actually got to see a tiger.

‘He was very happy photographing everything really.’

Mr Manvell said his uncle, of Hallett Road, Denvilles, was ‘not a thrillseeker.’

Coroner David Horsley was provided with statements from the foreign office in India.

However, the records were incomplete as the edge of the document was missed off when it was photocopied and sent over to this country.

Roger Manvell and his sister Karen Clark were happy to proceed with the hearing.

Roger Manvell described his understanding of the incident.

‘I would assume he was taking some photographs of some wild birds and things by a watering hole,’ he said.

‘He might have been on his own.

‘It was something that he did before they went off on the next stage of their journey.’

Roger Manvell said he understood his uncle was with some friends and guides on the safari.

‘If he was on his own it’s all circumstantial’, he said.

The documents from India, which had been translated into English, said that there was ‘an elephant making voice’.

The records said Mr Manvell died on his way to hospital.

A post-mortem concluded Mr Manvell died from multiple fractures of left-sided ribs leading to a fatal lung injury.

He was pronounced dead at 3.30pm.

The inquest was told Mr Manvell has glaucoma and cataracts.

Mr Horsley also asked Roger Manvell if his uncle had hearing difficulties.

But Roger Manvell said: ‘He was still playing tennis. He was still walking and driving.

‘We were not aware of any issue.

‘I have not come across any problem with his hearing.’

The coroner said the elephant may have emerged from the undergrowth before Mr Manvell could see it and get out of harm’s way.

He said: ‘An accident, it must have been.

‘The injuries are all compatible with him being trampled by an elephant.

‘He’s been out photographing wildlife in a not necessarily remote area.

‘He’s been out in an area where wild animals are and unfortunately he’s been in the way of a stampeding elephant.

‘I am going to record he’s died due to an accident.’

He added: ‘It must have been a terrible shock for you.

‘It’s the first time I have encountered anything like this as a coroner.

‘Quite clearly he was out in India doing what he enjoyed most.’

He said that Mr Manvell would have been knocked unconscious very quickly and would not have suffered.

He added: ‘It’s a very great shame when he was still such an active man and enjoying life so much.’

Mr Manvell was a long-standing member of The Avenue Lawn Tennis Club in Warblington and was well-known among the local tennis community in Portsmouth.

After the inquest Roger Manvell said: ‘It was quite unbelievable when it happened at the time.

‘It’s one in a million.’

He said it was difficult to know exactly what happened as he had had conversations over the phone to India, but it was difficult to know unless he spoke to Mr Manvell’s friends face-to-face.

He said he had no immediate plans to go to India.

Roger Manvell added: ‘He was always a very keen travellers and died doing what he loved.

‘We still have his photographs from his travels which we hold very dear to us.’