Geoff Jackson and his family were visiting African Lion Safari on Friday when things went very wrong during the elephant rides.
Jackson’s son was just minutes away from going on a ride with an elephant when they heard “slamming and screaming.”
That's when the saw the trainer.
“The man was attempting to feed the elephant,” he told CTV. “It began ramming him into the wooden structure underneath the stairs.”
Jackson says he wasn’t sure what he should do.
“I’m probably now the closest person to this man that is screaming, everyone else is making their way to safety.”
Jackson’s family, and most of the visitors, went running from the area.
“My wife was screaming at me because she knew our boys had gone toward safety but we didn’t know exactly where they were. In the process of turning to look for the boys I realized the man was now off the ground.”
He says it appeared as if the elephant picked up the man and was slamming him into the structure.
“At that point I decided there was nothing I could do.”
The trainer, a man in his 30s, was airlifted to a Hamilton hospital with serious injuries.
Jackson said he and his wife had some reservations about letting their kids ride the animals before the incident.
“We started having different emotions about putting our kids on the elephants after standing there watching them do circle after circle, loading and unloading kids. We began wondering if this was fair.”
The Ministry of Labour released a statement saying: “A ministry inspector was assigned and attended the workplace. One requirement was issued to the employer. Our investigation is ongoing. As for details on what occurred, that is all part of our investigation and not available at this time.”
The park has suspended elephant rides while they wait for the results of that investigation.
Jackson has regrets about his actions that day.
“I feel extreme guilt for being the closest one and not providing help.”
It’s something that’s been bothering him for days.
“I feel very angry that the park put me in that position,” he says. “I don’t know why nobody else was there to help this man. I did exactly what I was supposed to do as somebody visiting the park.”
Jackson says he's uncertain about elephant rides after this incident.
“I don’t believe the ride should exist after being there and being part of this.”
Jackson's children are traumatized after seeing it all unfold.
“They’ve ended up in our beds, sleeping with us since the event. We’ve been down-playing it as much as possible. It’s probably giving them nightmares.”
CTV News contacted African Lion Safari for a response. In an email they said CTV's questions “require a thoughtful and substantive response” and it was not “feasible for us to respond by the end of business [Monday]. We will work diligently to provide answers to you as soon as possible.”
-- With reporting by Marta Czurylowicz