Wife and son of a British scientist left fighting for their lives after being attacked by a giraffe

The wife and 3-year-old son of a British scientist living in South Africa are in critical condition at a Johannesburg hospital after being attacked by a giraffe near their home outside the small town of Hoedspruit on Monday.

Dr Sam Williams, a 36-year-old resident of the UK, was returning from a run in Blyde Wildlife Estate, where the family lives, when he saw his wife Katy, 35, and their son Finn being attacked by a female giraffe just 150 meters from their home.

Williams chased the giraffe away, but not before his family had sustained serious injuries. They were treated on the scene and then airlifted out of the estate in Hoedspruit in South Africa’s Limpopo province to Busamed Modderfontein Hospital in Johannesburg.

Finn was operated on early Tuesday morning to relieve pressure in his brain due to injuries sustained in the attack. Dr Katy Williams, who born in the United States, was operated on early Thursday morning for multiple injuries.

Both mother and son were in critical but stable condition on Thursday, the family said in a statement. It said the family has “decided to take one day at a time and stay positive.”  

“Dr Sam Williams would like to thank all doctors and medical personal from the hospital for their efforts to give his wife and son the best chance to heal,” said the statement, issued by Marina Botha, the Hoedspruit-based attorney representing the family.

Riaan Cilliers, the manager at the upscale Blyde Wildlife Estate, confirmed the incident and said that the community was “in shock about this very sad incident and we ensure the family that they are in our prayers.” 

Both Katy and Sam Williams have doctorates and work in animal-related fields, a family statement said. It did not give more information about their work in South Africa.

Cilliers said the giraffe had a two-month old calf, which Williams said may have made the giraffe see his wife and son as a threat. He called the accident an “unfortunate act of nature.”

Hoedspruit is a popular tourist town not far from Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon. An advertisement for property for sale in Blyde Wildlife Estate shows sweeping, multi-bedroom homes with private pools and verandas, describing the estate as a secure compound with a five-star gym and restaurant, with the “added privilege of viewing the roaming plains game from the privacy of their home.”

Though giraffes are herbivores and not generally considered to be aggressive toward humans, they are strong animals and can lash out unpredictably if they feel they are threatened. Both residents and visitors to South Africa have had deadly run-ins with giraffes in before.

In May, a South African filmmaker died after a giraffe swung its neck unexpectedly and head-butted him on the game farm where the ITV series “Wild At Heart” was filmed.

In 2015, a man was found dead next to his bicycle on a game reserve, believed to have been trampled by a giraffe, and in 2010, a 25-year-old woman was killed by a giraffe while out walking her dogs on a game farm in Limpopo province.

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