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Maine Veterinarian Dies after being Accidentally Crushed by Elephant

Courtesy Hope Elephants

HOPE, Maine — The state medical examiner says the death of the founder of a facility here that cares for retired circus elephants was due to asphyxiation and multiple injuries due to compression of the chest by an elephant. Mark Belserene is administrator of the medical examiner's office in Augusta.

"The manner is ruled accidental and at this point we have no indication that the elephant acted in an aggressive manner," Belserene says. "It's clearly an accident."

James Laurita, 56, was found dead in the animals' barn this morning. Laurita, who was a veterinarian, founded Hope Elephants with his brother in 2011. The elephants — named Rosie and Opal — arrived in 2012.

Laurita appeared on "Mainewatch" in September 2011. Watch below.