A 75-year-old woman from Michigan, a longtime activist and philanthropist in her community, died on an African safari after being attacked by a hippopotamus.
Carol Kirken was with family when it happened. She died in the arms of her son, Robert Kirken.
“Our cherished Carol Kirken died in Tanzania on August 5th. She was on her annual holiday with family members for an African safari,” the family wrote in her obituary.
“Having (passed) 75 years old, she was resolutely shooting for 100. She would have surely achieved it if not for this accident. Carol died quickly in the arms of her son Robert. We are shocked and saddened at her early departure from our lives.”
Kirken, from Rochester Hills, posted photos from the trip to her Facebook page, including one of her smiling, sitting on the plane bound for Tanzania. A post on Aug. 1 mentioned seeing “many beautiful animals today,” including four to five hippos and bull elephants.
Hippos are the most dangerous mammal in Africa, according to National Geographic, known for being unpredictable and aggressively territorial. Dominant males can weigh 6,000 pounds or more; females and other males between 3,500 and 4,500 pounds.
“Though they occasionally spar with crocodiles, a growing number of skirmishes are with humans. Hippos have trampled or gored people who strayed too near, dragged them into lakes, tipped over their boats,” according to Smithsonian magazine.
Kirken’s family plans a farewell on Aug. 20, the Detroit Free Press reported. She was well known in Rochester Hills for her charitable work at Crittenton Hospital Medical Center and the North Oakland YMCA and as a founding member of the Rochester Women’s Fund.
Tributes flooded social media upon the news of her death. A fellow YMCA advisory board member told the Free Press she was a “rocket of passion and enthusiasm.”
“Just shock,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett told Fox 2 in Detroit. “There are few people in the community that you think of that are absolute treasures, and Carol is one of those in our community.
“She is a person who left a positive mark in this community a lot of people who benefited because of her passion.
One of her grandsons, writing on Facebook, called her “the greatest grandmother anyone could ask for.”