A Spanish circus worker is fighting for his life in a Cork hospital after runaway elephant Baby crushed him.
New details have emerged of the horrific incident at Courtney’s Circus on Saturday.
Baby, the elephant who hit the headlines worldwide when she ran away from the circus last week, accidentally crushed Justino Munez as he cleaned her pen on Saturday night.
Munez suffered severe internal injuries when the 2.5-ton animal accidentally crushed him.
The circus owners are investigating claims that the elephant’s food may have been tampered with according to the Irish Examiner newspaper.
Baby was charged by another elephant in the pen and fell on Munez.
He was rushed to Cork University Hospital with several broken ribs and a suspected punctured lung.
The Spaniard’s condition deteriorated on Sunday and he remains in a critical condition according to the hospital.
Circus boss Wayne Courtney said: “This was an unfortunate incident. The man was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Baby was pushed by another elephant, causing her to stumble into Mr Munez.”
Eyewitness Sabrina Walsh explained to the paper how she saw an elephant charge at Baby and hit her on her side, causing her to topple over.
“The worker was pinned beneath the animal for several seconds,” she said.
“I could see his legs sticking out from under the elephant’s body. The elephant had to rock to get back up and I heard the man scream in agony. Then his legs and arms started to twitch.
“It took a few minutes for people to get over to him and a while for the ambulance to get there. I don’t think the circus people realised how seriously injured he was.”
Asked to explain the incident, owner Courtney hinted at sabotage after the circus made headlines in Cork.
“We have two theories,” he said. “Elephants are very intelligent, sensitive animals and we have suspicions that the others may be jealous of the attention Baby has been getting since last week’s incident.
“But we also believe that the elephants may have been interfered with, or fed something.
“Too many things have happened since we arrived in Cork. There are too many ifs and buts for this all to be a coincidence.”
Samples have been taken from the elephants and will be sent to Britain or France for testing.
“We have to get to the bottom of this to put our minds at rest,” added Courtney.
Animal Rights activists have again called on the Irish government to take actions against the use of animals as circus acts.
“We urge the Government to introduce emergency legislation without delay in the upcoming Animal Health and Welfare Bill to finally ban animal-act circuses in Ireland,” said spokesman John Carmody.
“We’ve been warning almost weekly that the use of wild animals and elephants in travelling circuses poses not only serious animal welfare problems, but also a significant public safety risk.
“We’ve now had two serious incidents occur within one week. Will it take the death of a member of the public or a circus employee before this problem is taken seriously?”
The circus has now left Cork for Limerick.
Here's the EuroNews "No Comment" footage of Baby the elephant on the loose last week: