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Elephant accidentally kills Missouri zoo keeper

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - An elephant in a Missouri zoo accidentally killed a long-time zoo manager on Friday, city officials said.

John Phillip Bradford, 62, had worked at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, for 30 years and was working in the elephant barn on Friday morning when the elephant swung its head and struck him, Springfield city spokeswoman Cora Scott said.

The elephant, Patience, has been at the zoo since 1990 and will remain part of the zoo's exhibit as zoo officials ruled the incident an accident.

Bradford and other zoo employees were with the 41-year-old Patience and the zoo's other three elephants when the accident happened, Scott said. Bradford died at the scene, she said.

"It's a very sad day for our community, especially for our zoo family," Scott said.

The incident happened before the zoo opened for the day and the elephant exhibit was closed on Friday.

Zoo keepers have been paying close attention to Patience and the other female elephants since the zoo's matriarch elephant, Pinky, died of kidney disease on October 4, officials said in a statement.

Dickerson Park Zoo is owned by the city of Springfield.

(Editing by David Bailey and Bob Burgdorfer)

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