An elephant threw a British soldier 20 feet into the air onto its tusks as a herd ambushed an anti-poaching patrol, an inquest has heard.
Coldstream Guardsman Mathew Talbot, 22, was on his first operational deployment with the Coldstream Guards when he was killed in an elephant charge in Malawi in May, 2019.
The soldier, from Great Barr, West Midlands, suffered fatal injuries while navigating as part of an eight-day, five-man anti-poaching patrol in Liwonde National Park.
Lance Sergeant Robert Padgham told an inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court on Monday that the patrol were going through a patch of elephant grass "when the lead man identified elephants about 30 metres in front".
He said: "We started to back off before another elephant appeared about five metres to our right.
"We started running and I believe Mathew started following me and I ran for about 50 metres to a tree which I started climbing. I heard a scream and observed an elephant throwing Mathew about 20 feet into the air."
Patrol Leader Lance Sergeant Padgham explained that he was forced to twice climb a tree to ensure he was not injured by a number of elephants.
Watch: Harry lays wreath to soldier killed protecting wildlife
'He was bleeding heavily'
He said from the tree he had climbed he "observed about 20 to 30 elephants and ran straight towards Mathew".
"He was bleeding heavily and I applied a tourniquet to the area and then I heard the elephants returning," he said.
He then managed to drag his seriously injured colleague into some nearby bushes before swiftly climbing a tree to get out of harm's way.
The inquest was told that both soldiers and three park rangers began running in different directions, and as Guardsman Talbot attempted to climb a "prominent branch" of the tree, he was seen being "thrown" and "knocked" into the air.
Lance Sergeant Padgham described the actions of the elephant as a sweeping motion with its head.
The witness told the court he had then lit and thrown a firecracker in an attempt to scare a group of elephants away, and they initially left the immediate scene.
Lance Sergeant Padgham, who immediately began first aid, said: "As I went down to him initially, I dragged him into the cover of that tree."
Asked how suddenly the incident had occurred, the soldier said: "The lead ranger gave the signal for dangerous game to the front.
"We started to back off and then from my right it came charging through so we just dispersed, like we were taught."
Lance Sergeant Padgham said soldiers on anti-poaching patrols had been taught to fire warning shots, to scare away animals posing a danger, only as a last resort.
No warning shots fired
However he added: "In my mind personally, if an attack like that happened and I was in a position to, I would have fired a warning shot."
Explaining why he had not fired a warning shot after climbing into a tree during the elephant attack, he added: "The sharp shooter is quite long-barrelled.
"I was hanging on the tree with one hand. I didn't want to fire a shot in the direction where the animal was in case of hitting Mathew."
The inquest was told a report into the death had identified the "leadership and personal strength" of Lance Sergeant Padgham in evacuating Guardsman Talbot on a stretcher and controlling a haemorrhage as being "initially life-saving".
The first day of the inquest was also told Guardsman Talbot died from complications of chest and soft tissue injuries.
The inquest, sitting without a jury, follows a Ministry of Defence service inquiry, published last year, which highlighted shortcomings in estimating how long it would take to get a casualty from a remote location to the nearest hospital.
In September 2019 the Duke of Sussex honoured the sacrifice of Gdsm Talbot by laying a wreath at a memorial during a visit to Liwonde National Park.
The inquest will hear evidence over two weeks, covering the command and management of the incident, preparation and procedures in force in Malawi, and resources available at the time.
The hearing continues.
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