Nicole Panos was on a walk with her two young children in South Africa’s Kuleni Game Park when a giraffe came charging at them. Nicole’s baby was killed in the attack, her four-year-old son suffered skull fractures and she herself was left paralysed from the waist down.
A woman’s one-year-old child was killed and she herself was left paralysed from the waist down after a giraffe charged at them at the Kuleni Game Park in South Africa.
The incident took place in October last year when 25-year-old Nicole Panos, who worked as a marine facilitator at the luxury game park, and her two children – Kayden (4) and Kaia (1) – were out walking in the afternoon.
“I saw a male and female giraffe in the distance; I knew she had recently had a calf but I couldn’t see it with her. She watched us, but she’s quite curious, so it wasn’t out of character, and we weren’t close to them. I saw her turn away and walk in the opposite direction,” Nicole told The Sun in a recent interview.
Nicole had Kaia in her arms while her son was walking ahead of her – when she suddenly heard a noise behind her. She turned around and was startled to see the giraffe rushing at them.
“Her head was down, she was coming straight at us, running really fast. I have always been taught to stand your ground with any animal charging at you to try to dominate the situation. But she was charging at my children, they couldn’t defend themselves,” Nicole recounted.
Nicole said the giraffe, which had recently given birth, may have acted to defend its offspring.
She only had time to yell at her son to run away before the charging animal struck her. Nicole blacked out with her daughter in her arms. She spotted the giraffe coming straight at Kayden when she came to. She remembers being crouched over Kaia’s body to shield her from the beast before losing consciousness again.
Nicole later learned that her brother had heard her screams for help and had fired a gun into the sand to scare the giraffe off. Paramedics and family rushed both children for urgent medical care, while the mother of two was airlifted to a hospital on account of her spinal injuries.
While Kayden survived the incident with skull fractures, Kaia died due to a traumatic head injury. Nicole said she and her family “broke down” on learning of the toddler’s death.
After spending more than three weeks in hospital and in intensive care with multiple rib fractures and damage to internal organs, Nicole is now facing multiple operations and a “long, challenging road to recovery ahead”.